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THE 

FIFTH LETTER OF HERNAN CORTES 

TO CHARLES V 



NO. XL 



THE 



FIFTH LETTER 



OF 



HERNAN CORTES 



EMPEROR CHARLES V 



CONTAINING AN 



ACCOUNT OF HIS EXPEDITION TO HONDURAS 



CransIatcK from trje Original &panisrj 

BY 

DON PASCUAL DE GAYANGOS 



BURT FRANKLIN, PUBLISHER 
NEW YORK, NEW YORK 



\ ■ y| p ■- 1 1\ 



ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED BY THE HAKLUYT SOCIETY 



REPRINTED BY PERMISSION 



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H2 

MAIM 



Published by LENOX HILL Pub. & Dist. Co. (Burt Franklin) 
235 East 44th St., New York, N.Y. 10017 
Reprinted: 1970 
Printed in the U.S.A. 

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Burt Franklin: The Hakluyt Society First Series 40 



n 



COUNCIL 



THE HAKLUYT SOCIETY. 



SIR RODERICK IMPEY MURCHISON, Bart., K.C.B., G.C.St.S., F.R.3., D.C.L., Corr. 
Mem. Jnst. V., Hon. Mem. Imp. Acad. So. Petersburg, etc, etc., President. 



Admiral C. R. DRINK WATER BF.THUNE, C.B. 

je-Presidents. 
The Rt. Hon. Sir DAVID DUNDAS. 



( Vict 



The Riomt Hon. H. U. ADD1NGTON. 

Rev. O. P. BADGER, F.R.G.S. 

J. BARROW, Esq., F.RS. 

Rear-admiral R, COLLINSON, C.B. 

Sir HENRY EI.LIS, K.H., F.R.S. 

General C. FOX. 

W. E. FRKRE, Ksq. 

R. W. GREY, Esq. 

JOHN WINTER JONKS, Esq., F.S.A. 

R. H. MAJOR, Esq., F.S.A. 

Sir CHARLKS NICHOLSON, Bart., D.C.L., LI..D. 

Captain SHFRARD OSBORN, R.N. , C.B. 

Major-General Sir IIFNRY C. RAWLINSON, K.C.B. 

Hon. H. STANLEY. 

The Bishop of ST. DAVID'S. 

Viscount STRANGFORD. 

Colonbl YULE, C.B. 

CLEMENTS R. MARKHAM, Esq., F.3.A., Honorary Secretary. 



INTRODUCTION. 



The fifth letter of Hernando Cortes to the Emperor 
Charles V, describing his expedition to the bay of 
Honduras, has never, to our knowledge, been turned 
into English. In 1843, a citizen of the United 
States translated* the second, third, and fourth — the 
only ones published during the conqueror's lifetime, 
and often reprinted since ; but of the first and last in 
order no satisfactory account could then be given, as 
they had long been missing, and had not yet ap- 
peared in the original Spanish. Robertson was the 
first to suspect that they might possibly be -dis- 
covered in some of the archives at Vienna, the 
Emperor Charles being in Germany when one of 
them reached Europe. And so it turned out to be, 
for in a manuscript volume of the Imperial Library, 
marked CXX, an attested copy of the former was 
found, of which that diligent historian soon pub- 
lished an abstract. t Along with it, in the same 
volume, was Cortes' fifth letter, or Carta quinta de 

* " The Despatches of Hernando Cortes, the Conqueror of 
Mexico, addressed to the Emperor Charles V." By George 
Folson. New York, 1843, 8vo. 

t " History of America." Notes and Illustrations, xcvii. 



vi INTRODUCTION. 

relation, which we now give in English for the first 
time. 

Of the missing letters, the first, dated July 10, 
1519, wherein an account is given of the conqueror's 
first landing at Veracruz, and of his subsequent pro- 
gress into the country, was first published* in 1844, 
by the learned and much regretted Navarrete. The 
fifth appeared soonf after ; and since then both-have 
been reprinted, first by Don Enriqufe de Vedia in 
Ribadeneyra's Biblioteca de Autores clasicos,% and 
afterwards by the present translator. § Doubts, how- 
ever, have been entertained about the first of these 
letters, some critics asserting — not without founda- 
tion — that besides the Relacion, which, though signed 
by Cortes himself, appears addressed to Charles V 
by the Justicia y Regimiento of Veracruz, or in 
other words by the municipal corporation of the 
town newly founded by him : there must have been 
another — perhaps, too, a fuller one — sent to the 
Emperor in the conqueror's own name, as commander 
of the small force that set foot on the shores of the 
Mexican empire. The facts stated in either must 
have been substantially the same; and yet such were 
the magnitude and importance of the undertaking, 
and the peculiar turn of the hero's mind, that it 

* " Coleccion de Documeutos ineditos para la historia de 
Espana," vol. i, pp. 421-61. 

t Vol. iv, pp. 1-167. 

% " Historiadores primitivos de Indias," torn, i, 1852, vol. xx, 
pp. 1-153. 

§ "Cartas de Hernan Cortes al Emperador Carlos V." Paris, 
1866. 



INTRODUCTION. Vll 

makes us regret that this portion of his own personal 
narrative has been lost.* 

But if objections have been raised against the 
text of the first Relation, it is not so with regard to 
the fifth, the most important of all in a geographical 
point of view ; for if we only cast a glance at the 
map of that portion of central America traversed by 
Cortes in his route to Honduras, we cannot but ad- 
mire his chivalrous spirit — not uncommon in that 
age — his undaunted and patient courage in moments 
of danger and privation, his aptitude for command 
and other qualifications for such an adventurous 
undertaking. With a handful of men, with no other 
assistance but that of a small compass, and of a very 
imperfect map furnished him by the natives of Ta- 
basco, marking the principal places visited by Indian 
traders in their wanderings over those wild regions ; 
with such guides as from time to time he could 
pick up in his journey, Cortes traversed that broad 
and level tract which forms the base of Yucatan, and 
spreads from the Coatzacoalco river to the head of 
the gulf, called by the Spaniards of those times 
Golfo de las Hibueras, and now known as Bay of 
Honduras — thus performing one of the longest and 
most perilous marches ever attempted in ancient or 
modern times. 

* Gonzalez Barcia, who was the first to reprint the three 
letters (second, third, and fourth), was of opinion that the one 
written by Cortes after his landing at Veracruz was perhaps the 
same that the Council of the Indies is said to have suppressed at 
the request of Paraphilo de Narvaez, or that which Juan de 
Flores took from Alonso de Avila. 



Vlll INTRODUCTION. 

The causes that brought on and determined Cortes' 
expedition are well known. It was a common belief 
among Spaniards of that time — and principally among 
those who, impelled by a spirit of adventure, left 
their country for the New World — that the Pacific 
was no other than the far-famed Indian Ocean, 
studded with golden isles, and teeming with the 
rich treasures of the East. Cortes, like most Spaniards 
of his day, firmly believed in a strait which should 
connect the two seas, and his letters to the Em- 
peror are filled with this favourite idea, which he 
seems to have cherished to the last day of his life. 
"Most of all," does he say in one of his letters* to the 
Emperor, " do I exult in the tidings lately brought 
me of the Great Ocean ; for in it, as cosmographers 
and those learned men who know most about the 
Indies inform me, are scattered innumerable isles 
teeming with gold and pearls, abounding in precious 
stones, as well as in spices, and where, I feel confi- 
dent, many wonderful secrets and admirable 'things 
may be discovered."*]" Again, in 1524, he wrote: 
" Your Majesty may be assured that knowing, as I 
do, how much you have at heart the discovery of 
this great mystery of the seas, I shall postpone all 
interests and projects of my own — some of them of 
the highest moment — for the fulfilment of this great 
object." 

Accordingly, no sooner had he entered Mexico for 
the second time, than he fitted out two expeditions, 

* " Tercera Relacion," ap. Lorenzana, p. 302. 
t "Quarta Relacion," ib., p. 385. 



INTRODUCTION. IX 

which, after reaching Mechaocan, penetrated to the 
borders of the Great Southern Ocean. No European 
had yet descended on its shores so far north of the 
equator. They visited on their return some of the 
rich districts towards the north, bringing samples of 
gold and pearls from the Gulf of California. 

Another expedition fitted out at Zacatula, in the 
Gulf of Mexico, and destined to the coast of Florida, 
was equally successful ; and though the wonderful 
passage that was to connect the two seas was not 
found, the always increasing reports of the fer- 
tility of the land and the richness of its mines con- 
firmed Cortes in his belief, and made him more eager 
than ever to discover the "great mystery of the sea," 
as he often calls it in his letters to the Emperor. 

For this purpose he prepared another and larger 
squadron, and giving the command of it to Christoval 
de Olid — the brave officer who commanded one of 
the divisions of the besieging army — instructed him 
to steer for Honduras and form a colony on its 
northern shore. This being accomplished, a detach- 
ment of his squadron was to cruise along its northern 
shores towards Darien, and look out most diligently 
for the mysterious strait. About the same time 
Alvarado terminated the important conquest of Gua- 
temala, thus extending the limits of the conquest, 
and increasing the geographical knowledge of those 
seas. 

Olid, however, turned out unfaithful. Having 
touched at La Havana, he was there persuaded by 
Velasquez, the bitter enemy of Cortes, and at the 



X INTRODUCTION. 

time more enraged with him than ever,* to strike 
out for himself and proclaim independence. No 
sooner, therefore, had that officer reached his destina- 
tion and made a settlement on the adjoining coast, 
than he shook off his allegiance to Cortes — under 
whose orders he was acting, and with whose treasure 
the expedition had been fitted out — publicly de- 
claring that he would hold his conquest in the 
Emperor's name, without any subjection to his com- 
mander-in-chief. And not only did he thus rebel 
against Cortes' authority, but hearing that some 
Spaniards under Gil Gonzalez Davila, coming from 
the Western Islands, had settled higher up the 
coast, he sent against them part of his force and 
took their leader prisoner. Francisco de las Casas, 
a kinsman of the conqueror, was dealt with in a 
similar manner. On the news of Olid's rebellion 
reaching Mexico, Cortes had dispatched him at the 
head of a small force in three vessels, with orders 
to seize the person of his rebellious lieutenant and 
bring him to his presence ; but after some fighting, 
which ended in negociation, the vessel on board 
of which Las Casas was, struck on a rock, and was 
wrecked on the shore ; upon which Olid — who from 
the beginning was treacherously inclined, and had 
only consented to treat with a view to gain time — 
seized the opportunity, and took him prisoner. 

* Some time previous to this event the influence of Bishop 
Fonseca, one of the members of the Council most opposed to 
Cortes, had ceased to be felt at court, and the long-pendiDg suit 
between him and Velasquez had been decided in his favour. 



INTRODUCTION. XI 

Shortly after, however, Gonzalez Davila and Las 
Casas, who had been allowed to move freely about 
the camp, joined in a conspiracy against the usurper 
— whose tyranny and arrogance had become in- 
tolerable even to his own men — and having with the 
assistance of their numerous partisans surprised Olid 
in his own dwelling, secured his person, had him 
tried by court-martial, and publicly, beheaded him 
at Naco. 

Of these late proceedings Cortes had no knowledge 
whatever. No tidings of the death of Olid and of 
Las Casas' ultimate success had reached him ; and 
although he had every reason to trust in the loyalty 
of his kinsman and lieutenant, he must have had 
serious misgivings about the fate of the expedition 
under his orders. On the other hand, were 01 id's 
defection to remain unpunished, the most mischievous 
consequences might be apprehended for the future, 
as it would prove a dreadful blow dealt to his autho- 
rity in the newly conquered land. He therefore de- 
termined to go to Honduras himself; he might thus 
be able to ascertain from personal inspection the 
mineral resources of the country, and perhaps dis- 
cover that point of communication between the two 
seas which his lieutenant had been unable to find, 
and which he still felt confident was reserved by 
Providence to his own exertions. Accordingly, on 
the 12th October, 1524,* Cortes left Mexico with 

* There can be no doubt about this date, and yet there are 
letters of Cortes to the Emperor, dated Mexico', 13th and 15th 
of October, in the latter of which he informs him that he has de- 



Xll INTRODUCTION. 

about four hundred Spaniards and three thousand 
Indian auxiliaries, taking with him the proud but 
unfortunate Guatemozin — who was to meet with his 
death on the road — and several other Mexican chiefs. 
He was accompanied by Gonzalo de Salazar, the 
factor, Pero Armildez Chirinos, the veedor or royal 
inspector, and other crown officers. The administra- 
tion of justice and the government of the country he 
left in the hands of the treasurer, Alonzo de Estrada, 
and of the accounting-master (contador), Rodrigo de 
Albornoz, assisted by a lawyer named Alonzo de 
Zuazo. No sooner, however, had he reached the 
town of Espiritu Santo, when news came to him of 
serious disturbances in the capital, owing to his 
lieutenants having quarrelled among themselves ; and, 
though he immediately provided for the emergency 
by sending back in all haste Salazar and Chirinos to 
take the government of the city into their hands, 
this was not accomplished until some months after, 
when much blood had been shed, and a rival faction 
created, which ever after was hostile to Cortes and 
to his administration. 

sisted from his intended expedition to Honduras. This difficulty, 
however, has been overcome by Garcia Icazbalceta, in his recent 
Coleccion de Documentos para la historia de Mexico, p. 41 — a work 
of much research, and where many an interesting paper has been 
published for the first time — by surmising that Cortes really left 
on the 12th, and encamped in the outskirts of the city for some 
days, but went on dating his letters from Mexico, a practice not 
at all uncommon in those times. It is not so easy to determine 
what reasons he had to make the Emperor Charles V believe that 
he abandoned his idea, when he evidently was more intent than 
ever on its prosecution. 



INTRODUCTION. Xlll 

Notwithstanding the anxiety which such news 
must have caused him ; notwithstanding the almost 
incredible fatigues and dangers of a march through 
unknown regions, inhabited by wild Indian tribes ; 
Cortes, with a resolution and a steadiness of purpose 
that cannot be sufficiently praised, accomplished his 
object, and, after an absence of nearly two years, re- 
turned to Mexico, where new disturbances had 
broken out. 

To determine the spots visited by him in this 
extraordinary march through almost impenetrable 
forests, swampy plains, or lofty mountains, has by 
some writers been pronounced a hopeless task ;* and 
though we possess the narrative of that stout-hearted 
and sturdy soldier Bernal Diaz, who formed part of 
the expedition and carefully noted down its princi- 
pal events ; though the various provinces traversed 
by the devoted army have since been more or less 
explored by travellers of all nations, f few are the in- 

* Mr. Prescott, among others, despaired of ever accomplish- 
ing it. " I have examined," says he, " some of the most an- 
cient maps of the country by Spanish, French, and Dutch 
cosmographers, and I can detect on them only four or five of the 
places indicated by Cortes." Conquest of Mexico, book vii, 
chapter iii ; see also Stevens' Incident of Travel. 

t About ten years ago, an enterprising French traveller, Mr. 
Arthur Morelet, published two volumes of travels in these remote 
regions. Starting from Havana, in the island of Cuba, and land- 
ing at ^sal, on the western coast of Yucatan, he travelled by 
land from Merida to Campeachy, entered the Laguna de Ter- 
minos, ascended the river Palizada until it joins the Uzumazinta, 
and proceeding afterwards in an eastern direction, traversed the 
continent to Flores on the lake Itza, crossing on his route the 
rapides de Tenosique and the river Yalchilan. Bending then 



xiv INTRODUCTION. 

dications — and those very slight — of the route they 
followed. He must have passed near the ruins of 
Palenque, since the small village of Las tres Crazes 
is said to derive its name from three wooden crosses 
left in that locality. We know also that he crossed 
the Sierra de los Pedernales by a most dangerous 
pass, to which he gave the name of Puerto del 
Alabastro, and that after a march of five days 
through districts more or less inhabited, he reached 
a large lake, which appeared to him to be an arm of 
the sea, but could be no other than the Laguna de 
Peten, or Itza, as it is otherwise called, in the country 
of the Lacandones, the most warlike nation of those 
parts. He seems to have visited the Indian town in 
the middle of the lake, and destroyed the Indian 
teocallis or temples on it, leaving unequivocal traces 
of his passage. Lastly, the situation of the two 
towns Naco and Nito, where the wretched and half- 
starved relics of former expeditions were found, is 
equally ascertained. But beyond these few places, 
on an extent of country calculated at one thousand 
miles, we hardly know which is the precise route 
followed by the conquerors. They must have crossed 
more than once the Rio de San Pedro, perhaps, 
too, the Uzumazinta,* across one of which rivers 

towards the south, he visited Santiago de Guatemala and Iztapan, 
and making for the lake Yrazabal and Golfo Dulce, returned by- 
sea to La Havana. He must thus have gone through a portion 
of the country traversed by Cortes, and yet either he had no 
knowledge of this letter, or else he could not identify any of the 
spots named by the conqueror in his narrative. 

* This river has its source in the mountains of Peten, not far 



INTRODUCTION. XV 

Cortes himself informs us a bridge was thrown 
measuring 934 spans in breadth. Indeed, though 
the native writers tell us that some of these bridges 
were still standing many years after, and were 
generally known as Las Puentes de Cortes, they have 
neglected to say the precise spot on which they 
stood, thereby increasing our perplexity and doubt 
in this matter. Neither is Cortes' narrative as clear 
and connected as might have been expected, being 
evidently drawn up some time after his return to 
Mexico, and when some of the events of a march so 
fraught with dangers of all kinds, as well as the 
names of Indian localities and chiefs on his passage, 
may have escaped his memory. 

To those English readers who take an. interest in 
geographical discovery, and who know how imperfect 
our knowledge has hitherto been, and is still, of the 
regions traversed by Cortes in his wonderful march 
across Central America, the translation of this letter 
— in every respect one of the most interesting he 

from San Luis. It runs first in a south-western direction under 
the name of Santa Isabel, and mixes its waters with those of 
another considerable river called Lancontun. Flowing then to- 
wards the north with increased rapidity, it takes the name of 
Rio de la Pasion, and again at Tenosique, the last village in the 
province of Tabasco, resumes its old name (Uzumazinta). Cross- 
ing there the imposing chain of mountains that separates Mexico 
from Central America, it branches out into three rivers, the most 
western of which preserves its name until it mixes its waters 
with the Grijalva, above La Frontera. The other two are 
known as San Pedrito and Palizada, and all empty their waters 
into the Mexican Gulf. Voyages dans V Amerique Centrale, Vile 
de Cuha, at h Yucatan. Paris, 1857, vol. ii, p. 23. 



Xvi INTRODUCTION. 

ever addressed to the Emperor — cannot fail to be 
acceptable. We have carefully noted down the vari- 
ous readings afforded by the only two copies known 
to be in existence, the Vienna one, already alluded 
to, and another one which Don Juan Bautista Mufioz, 
the historian, saw in the National Library at Madrid. 
Neither of them, in our opinion, is sufficiently correct, 
since they scarcely once agree as to the writing of 
proper names, already very much corrupted by the 
conquerors themselves ; yet we are inclined to give 
the preference to the latter, if, as asserted, it was 
made upon the original of Cortes by Alonso Diaz, 
one of his officers. 



FIFTH LETTER OF HERNAN CORTES. 



Most Sacred Majesty : — On the 23rd day of the month of 
October of the year 1525 past, I dispatched from the town 
of Trujillo, off the port and cape of Honduras, to the 
Hispaniola, a vessel, and in her a servant of mine, with 
orders to pass over to those kingdoms of Spain. The said 
servant was the bearer of letters, wherein I informed your 
Majesty of some events which had occurred at the gulf 
called Las Hibueras 1 between the two captains 2 I had sent 
thither and another captain named Gil Gonzalez, who went 
afterwards. And as I was unable at the time the said vessel 
and messenger departed, to give your Majesty any account 
of my journey and adventures, from the moment I left this 
great city of Tenuxtitlan until I met with the people of 
those distant parts, it seemed to me important that your 
Highness should become acquainted with my doings, were 
it only for the sake of not failing in my invariable custom, 
which is to advise your Majesty of all things wherein I am 
concerned. I will therefore narrate events plainly and to 
the best of my ability, because, were I to attempt drawing 

1 The name of this gulf is variously written — Higiieras, Iligueras, etc. ; 
but Herrera and Juarros, both good historical authorities, call it 
Hibueras, which in the dialect of the country means " pumpkins," from 
a species abounding in that locality. 

2 These were Christoval de Olid and Francisco de las Casas. 



2 THE FIFTH LETTER 

them in their proper colouring, I am sure I could not do it, 
and, moreover, my narrative might perhaps be unintelligible 
to those for whom it is destined ; and will relate only the 
principal and most remarkable incidents of the said journey, 
passing over in silence many others, as accessory, which 
might also have furnished ample matter for much writing. 

Having taken my measures in the matters concerning 
Christoval de Olid, as I wrote to your Majesty, 1 I began to 
consider how long 1 had been inactive, and without under- 
taking things that might be of service to your Majesty; and 
although my arm was still sore and painful, 2 I determined 
upon doing something useful. I therefore left this great 
city of Tenuxtitlan 3 on the 12th day of October of the year 
1524 last, followed by a few horse and foot, chosen among 
my own retainers and servants, and by some friends and 
connexions of mine. In this number were Gonzalo 4 de 
Salazar and Peralmindez Chirino, 5 the former a factor, and 
the latter a veedor of your Majesty. I likewise took with 
me the principal among the natives of the land ; and 
left the administration of justice and the government of 
the country in the hands of Alonso de Estrada and Rodrigo 
de Albornoz, the treasurer and accounting-master of your 
Majesty, conjointly with the licenciate Alonso de Zuazo. 
I provided this 6 city with the necessary artillery, ammuni- 

1 In his letter to the emperor, dated from Tenuxtitlan, loth of Octo- 
ber, 1524, Cortes announced his determination to go in search of his re- 
bellious lieutenant. 

2 No doubt from the wound received during the siege. 

3 Generally written Temixtitan, Temixtiltan, or Tenestutan ; fre- 
quently also Tenuxtitlan, as in the text, which reading I have adopted 
as most resembling Tenochtitlan, which I believe to be its real Aztec 
name. 

4 The Vienna copy says Agustin, which is a mistake. 

5 The name of this individual, who was veedor, i. e., surveyor or in- 
spector, is variously written, throughout Cortes' correspondence, Peral- 
mildez, Pero Armildez Chirinos, and Pedro Almindez. 

• Cortes was at Mexico when he wrote this. 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 3 

tion, and garrison ; I ordered some pieces of cannon to be 
placed in the Atarazanas, and the brigantines to be made 
ready, and I appointed an alcayde or military governor for 
the defence of the city, as well as for any other offensive 
operation that might be required. All this being accom- 
plished, I set out with the said purpose from this city of 
Tenuxtitlan, and having reached Espiritu Santo, which is a 
town in the province of Coazacoalco, 1 distant one hundred 
and ten leagues from this city, whilst engaged in settling 
the internal affairs of the community, I dispatched messen- 
gers to Tabasco and Xiculango, informing the lords of those 
provinces of my intended journey, and ordering them to 
come and meet me, or send persons to whom I might com- 
municate my instructions, adding that their deputies were 
to be men of probity and understanding, and such as could 
repeat to them faithfully the substance of my words. They 
did exactly as I told them ; they received my messengers with 
due honour ; and they sent me seven or eight worthy men 
duly authorised, as they are in the habit of doing on such 
occasions. Having inquired of these men the news of the 
land, I was told that on the sea-coast, beyond the region 
called Yucatan, towards the bay of the Asuncion, 2 there 
were certain Spaniards who did them much harm, since, 
besides burning their villages and slaying their people — in 
consequence of which many places were deserted, and the 

1 Now called Huazacoalco. 

2 This appears to be the same called Ascension in the maps ; but in 
the Roman Catholic calendar Ascension and Asuncion are two different 
things, the former being only applicable to Jesus, the other to Mary. 
Ascension bay is really on the coast of Yucatan; yet the Spaniards 
who had gone under Gil Gonzalez Davila were not settled there, but 
about sixty leagues lower down, on the shores of the gulf called Arnatico. 
Lorenzana, in his History of New Spain, p. 304, describes the bay of 
La Ascension as being formed by the waters of the Rio Grande, opposite 
the coast of the ancient province of Vera Paz, then united to the dioceses 
of Guatemala. In 1524 one of Cortes' pilots, named Diego Hurtado 
visited it, whilst in search of a passage leading to the South Sea. 



4 THE FIFTH LETTER 

inhabitants had fled to the mountains — they had been the 
cause of the total disappearance of trade, formerly very 
flourishing, on that coast. Some of them, who had been in 
those parts, described to me most of the villages of the 
coast, as far as the place of residence of Pedrarias Davila, 
who now governs those regions in your Majesty's name ; 
and drew on a cloth a figure of the whole land, whereby I 
calculated that I could very well go over the greater part of 
it, and in particular over that portion of the country which 
■was pointed out to me as the abode of the said Spaniards. 

Thus instructed about the road which I was to take in 
order to carry out my plans, and bring the natives of the 
land to the knowledge of our holy Catholic faith, and your 
Majesty's service — certain as I was that on so long a journey 
I would have to traverse many different provinces, and meet 
people of various races — being also curious to know whether 
the Spaniards mentioned to me were the same that I had 
sent under the captains Christoval de Olid, Pedro de 
Alvarado, or Francisco de las Casas, I considered it useful 
to your Majesty's service to go thither in person, inasmuch 
as my journey being through regions and provinces hitherto 
unexplored, I would have ample opportunity of doing ser- 
vice to your Majesty, and putting the said countries by 
peaceful means under the imperial rule, as has since been 
done. 

Having, therefore, fixed on this idea, and regardless of 
the dangers and costly expense of such a journey, which 
some of my people did not fail to represent to me, I re- 
solved to follow that route, as it was my first intention when 
I left this city. But before my arrival at the town of 
Espiritu Santo, at two or three places along the road, I re- 
ceived letters from this great city of Tenuxtitlan, in which 
the lieutenants I had appointed informed me how the 
treasurer and accounting-master had quarrelled, and how 
there was no longer between them that conformity of ideas 



OF HERXAN CORTES. 5 

which was so necessary for the proper discharge of their re- 
spective offices, and the trusts given to them in your Majesty's 
name. The same complaints were made in other letters 
written by private individuals to the officials who were then 
with me. I thereupon took those measures which I deemed 
most proper to arrest the evil, writing forthwith to both 
parties letters, wherein I 'reproached severely their conduct, 
and warned them that, unless they made their peace, and 
acted in conformity with each other, I would adopt measures 
unpleasant to either, and put the whole affair under the 
cognisance of your Majesty. 

After this, during my stay in the said town of Espiritu 
Santo, and whilst I was preparing to set out on my journev, 
fresh letters came from the said lieutenants and from other 
persons, purporting how the enmity and bad passions of the 
treasurer and accounting-master still lasted, and had even 
increased so far that upon one occasion, as the two officials 
were sitting with others in council, they had actually drawn 
their swords one against another, the scandal and noise thus 
raised among the Spaniards being so great that they took up 
arms and divided into two factions. Even the natives of the 
city had been on the point of arming themselves, believing 
that noise and movement to be intended against them. 

Seeing, therefore, that neither my remonstrances nor my 
threats were sufficient to put down the evil, and that I could 
not go thither myself and attend to its remedy unless I de- 
sisted altogether from my expedition, I determined upon 
sending to that city the factor and veedor, who, as I have 
already stated, were with me at the time ; and I gave them 
full powers, equal to those of the two contending parties, to 
inquire into the causes of the dispute, to investigate which 
of them was wrong, and to compel them to keep their peace. 
In case of resistance, I furnished them with other secret 
powers and instructions to suspend them both in their 
offices, and take into their own hands the government of the 



6 THE FIFTH LETTER 

city, conjointly with the licenciate Alonso de Zuazo, after 
punishing the guilty parties accordingly. The said factor 
Gonzalo de Salazar, and Peralmindez Chirino, the veedor, 
departed to fulfil their commission, and I remained with my 
mind very much at ease under the conviction that they 
would succeed in quieting the rival passions. 

This being done, I took muster of the forces I had with 
me to prosecute my journey, and found them to consist of 
ninety-three horse, besides crossbowmen and arquebusiers, 
and thirty and odd foot, making in all a total of 230 men. 1 
I next attended to the provender. There was then at 
anchor in the port of the said town of Espiritu Santo a 
large caravel, which had been sent to me from the town of 
Medellin, loaded with provisions. This I again filled with 
the stores I had brought with me ; and, putting into it four 
pieces of artillery, as well as crossbows, muskets and other 
ammunition, directed the crew to sail for the island of 
Tabasco, and wait there for my commands. I also wrote to 
a servant of mine, who resides at the said town of Medellin, 
to load with provisions two other caravels and a large boat, 
then in the port, and send them to me. To Rodrigo de Paz, 
whom I left in charge of my house and property in this city 

1 The Vienna copy has " y halle noventa y tres de chballo, que entre 
todos habia ciento y cincuenta caballos, y treinta y tantos peones, thus in- 
volving an error and a contradiction. Rodrigo de Albornoz, in a letter 
dated from Mexico the 15th of December, 1525, states the number to 
have been one hundred and twenty horse, twenty men armed with 
escopetas or short muskets, and as many crossbowmen and foot soldiers ; 
whilst Bernal Diaz, who, as is well known, accompanied the expedition, 
says : " We were in all, between Guacacualcan and Mexican settlers, two 
hundred and fifty soldiers, one hundred and thirty of them mounted, 
the remainder escopeteros (musketeers) and crossbowmen, without count- 
ing in that number a great many soldiers newly arrived from Castile." 
His own personal retinue consisted of several pages, young men of good 
family, and among them Montejo, the future conqueror of Yucatan, a 
butler and steward, several musicians, dancers, jugglers and buffoons; 
but all considered, the Spanish force under Cortes could not have much 
exceeded three hundred men, exclusive of the Mexican Indians. 



OF HERN AN CORTES. 7 

of Tenuxtitlan, I gave instructions to remit to Medellin five 
or six thousand ounces of gold, to pay for the said provisions, 
and I even wrote to the treasurer begging him to advance 
me that money, as I had none left in the hands of the afore- 
said agent. All this was done according to my wishes : the 
caravels came as far as the river of Tabasco, laden with pro- 
visions, though they proved to be of little use, because my 
route being far inland, neither the caravels, laden as they were, 
could go further up the river, nor could I send for them, 
owing to certain large morasses that lay between. 

This matter of the provender to be dispatched by sea 
being thus settled, I began my journey, and marched along 
the coast until I reached a province called Cupilco, 1 about 
thirty-five leagues distant from the town of Espiritu Santo. 
On my road there, besides several morasses and water- 
streams, over all of which temporary bridges were thrown, 
I had to cross three very large rivers, one of them near a 
village called Tumalon, about nine leagues off the town of 
Espiritu Santo, the other at Agualulco, nine leagues farther 
on. These two were passed in canoes, the horses being led 
by the hand, and swimming across. The third river was so 
large and wide that it would have been impossible for the 
horses to swim across, and therefore I was obliged to look 
out for a more convenient spot up the stream, where I had a 
wooden bridge made for their passage and that of the men. 
It was a wonderful thing to behold, for the river measured 
at that spot nine hundred and thirty-four spans in width. 

This province of Cupilco abounds in the fruit called 
cacao, and in other land produce. It has likewise good 
fisheries, and ten or twelve large villages, without counting 
the small ones. The land is low, and consequently full of 
morasses, so much so that in winter-time it is impossible to 

1 Thus, in the Vienna MS.; other copies read Zupilco,and evenCuplisco. 
Bernal Diaz (fol. 196) writes Coplisco. It is no doubt the Tupilcos of 
the maps. 



8 THE FIFTH LETTER 

go about except in canoes. I traversed it in dry weather ; 
and yet, from the time I entered these morasses until 1 went 
out of them — a distance of about twenty leagues — I had to 
construct no less than fifty bridges for the passage of men 
and horses. The inhabitants are quiet and peaceful, though 
rather timid and shy, owing to the scanty communications 
they have hitherto had with Spaniards. Through my arrival 
among them, they became more secure and confident, serv- 
ing with entire good will, not only me and the Spaniards I 
brought with me, but also those in whose hands I left them 1 
on my departure. 

From this province of Cupilco I was to proceed, accord- 
ing to the sketch or map given to me by the people of 
Tabasco and Xiculango,to another province called Cagoatan; 2 
but as the natives of those regions only travel by water, 
none could shew me the land route, though they pointed 
out with their fingers that part of the map where the said 
province was supposed to be. I was therefore obliged to 
send in that direction some of my Spaniards and Indians to 
look out for a road, and, when found, to make it practicable 
for the rest of us, as our way was forcibly through very high 
mountains. It, however, pleased God Almighty that such a 
road was found, though hard and difficult in the extreme, 
not only on account of the said mountain ridge to be tra- 
versed, but also of the many perilous marshes, over all of 
which, or the greater part, we had to throw bridges. After 
this it became necessary to cross a very large river, called 
Quecalapa, one of the tributaries of the Tabasco. 

1 According to the practice introduced by the conquerors and sanc- 
tioned by the court, the Indians were distributed as vassals among the 
Spaniards, a certain number of them being encomendados, i.e., entrusted 
or given in charge to each of the conquerors or settlers, according to their 
respective rank, position or services. The community of Indians thus 
allotted to a Spaniard was known by the name of encomienda; and the 
lord himself, for such he became over his Indian vassals, was called 
encomendero, that is, owner of an encomienda. 

2 Sometimes written Zagoatan. 



OF HERN AN CORTES. 9 

To complete my arrangements, I dispatched towards the 
lords of Tabasco and Cunuapa tv, o of my Spaniards, begging 
them to send up the Tabasco river from fifteen to twenty of 
their canoes, that might bring provisions from the huge 
caravel stationed there, and help me in the crossing of the 
river. I requested them, moreover, to take the said provi- 
sions as far as a principal town called Cagoatan, situated up 
the river, and, as it afterwards appeared, distant about 
twelve leagues from the spot where I crossed. They did as 
I desired them to do, all my orders being very punctually 
executed. 

Having thus found the road to the river Zalapa, 1 which, 
as stated, we had necessarily to cross, I set out from the last 
village in the province of Cupilco, called Anaxuxuan, and 
passed that first night in a deserted spot surrounded by 
lakoons. Early the next day we arrived on the banks of the 
river, but found no canoes there for the passage of the men, 
those which I had asked from the lords of Tabasco not hav- 
ing yet reached their destination. I learned, moreover, that 
the pioneers whom I had sent forwards were cutting their 
way up the river from the other side, because, having been in- 
formed that it passed through the most important town in all 
the province of Cagoatan, they naturally followed up its 
course not to be mistaken. One of them, in order to arrive 
sooner at the said town, had gone by water in a canoe, and 
on his arrival had found the natives in a state of great ex- 
citement and fear. He spoke to them through an interpreter 
he had with him ; and having succeeded in quieting their 
minds a little, he sent back his canoe down the river, with 
some Indians, to inform me how he had made his entrance 
into the town, and had been well received by the natives. 
That he was coming down himself with a number of Indians, 
opening the road by which I was to travel until he should 

1 The same river called elsewhere Quezalapa, and which is also written 
by the copyist sometimes Cuecalapa, others Zuezalapa. 



10 THE FIFTH LETTER 

meet with the pioneers, who were working on this other 
side. This intelligence gave me great delight, not only 
because it announced the peaceable inclinations of those 
people, but because it gave me the certitude of a road, when 
I considered it as rather doubtful, or at least as difficult and 
dangerous. 

With the canoe which brought those Indians, and with 
some rafters which I ordered to be constructed out of large 
pieces of timber, I managed to send all the heavy luggage 
on the other side of the river, which in that place is of 
very considerable width. Whilst engaged in the crossing, 
the Spaniards, whom I had sent to Tabasco, arrived with 
twenty canoes laden with provisions out of the great caravel 
which I had sent there from Coazacoalco. 1 From these 
people I learned that the two other great caravels and the 
boat had not yet arrived in the river, having remained 
behind at Coazacoalco ; but that they were expected soon. 
In the said canoes came also no less than two hundred 
Indians from the provinces of Tabasco and Cunuapa, 2 with 
whose help the crossing of the river was effected, without 
any other accident but the drowning of a negro slave and 
the loss of two loads of iron tools, whereof we afterwards 
stood in some need. That night I slept on the other side 
of the river with all my people, and on the next day began 
to follow the track of the pioneers, who were opening the 
road, my only guide being the banks of the river itself. In 
this manner we marched about six leagues, and arrived under 
a very heavy rain at a mountain where we slept. During 
the night, the Spaniard who had gone up the river to 
Cagoatan came back with about seventy Indians, all natives 

1 The Vienna copy Zoazala, which is evidently a mistake. It was at 
the port of Espiritu Santo, in the province of Cozacoalco, that Cortes 
dispatched to Tabasco the vessel that came from Medellin. Vide supra, 
p. 6. 

2 No doubt the same which Bernal Diaz (fol. 196) calls Iquinuapa. 



OF HERNAN CURTES. 11 

of that place, and informed me how he had succeeded in 
opening a road on the other side, but that if I chose to take 
it, it was necessary for me to retrace my steps for a distance 
of two leagues. I did so, but I gave orders at the same 
time that the pioneers — who were in advance cutting their 
way on the bank of the river, and were already three leagues 
off the place where I had passed the night — should go on 
with their work. They had scarcely advanced one league 
and a half, when they fell in with the outskirts of the town, 
and by this means two roads were opened where there was 
none before. 

I followed the one opened by the natives, and though it 
proved rather a hard one, on account of the rain that fell by 
torrents, and of the many morasses we had to cross, I yet 
managed to arrive on that same day at one of the suburbs of 
the said town, which, though the smallest of all, contained, 
nevertheless, upwards of two hundred houses. We could 
not go to the others, because they were separated by rivers 
that ran betwixt, and which could only be crossed by swim- 
ming. All of them, however, were deserted, and, moreover, 
we found on our arrival that all the Indians who had 
accompanied the Spaniard, had also taken flight, notwith- 
standing I spoke to them in mild terms and treated them 
well, distributing among them some of the trifles I had with 
me, and thanking them for the pains they had taken in 
opening the said road. I had told them that my coming to 
those parts was by the command of your Majesty, and for 
no other purpose than to teach them how to believe in and 
worship an. only God, creator and maker of all things, and 
acknowledge -your Majesty as supreme lord of the land. 
Many other # like things I had told them which are custom- 
ary on such occasions, and yet, as I said before, the inhabit- 
ants had fled to a man. I waited three or four days, think- 
ing they had only left through fear, and that they might 
come back to speak to me; but not one made his appearance. 



12 THE FIFTH LETTER 

Upon which, in order to communicate with them, and bring 
them by peaceable means to your Majesty's service, as well 
as ascertain from them which way the road lay through a 
country quite unexplored, full of large rivers and deep 
marshes, and which seemed never to have been trod by 
human foot — the natives themselves never travelling except 
by water : — I determined, the better to attain the two objects 
above stated, to send two companies of Spaniards, and some 
of the natives of this city of Tenuxtitlan and its adjoining 
territory who were with me, with orders to seize upon and 
bring to me any Indians that might be found in the said pro- 
vince. 

By means, therefore, of those canoes that had come up 
the river from Tabasco, and of others that we procured 
belonging to the said town, my men managed to navigate 
most of those rivers and morasses, all marching through land 
being deemed impracticable ; but they could only discover 
two Indians and some women, of whom I took- every pains 
to ascertain whither the people of their town and the lord of 
the land had fled. The only answer I could obtain from 
them was that the people of the country had all dispersed 
over the mountains, or were hiding in the rivers and swamps 
of the vicinity. Having, moreover, inquired from them the 
road to the province of Chilapan — which, according to the 
sketch I had with me, lay next on my route — they never 
would tell me, alleging that their only mode of travelling 
was by rivers and marshes in their canoes, never by land ; 
that they knew how to go thither by water, and not other- 
wise. They did, however, point out to me a chain of moun- 
tains, which might be about ten leagues off, saying that in 
its neighbourhood stood the principal town of the province 
of Chilapan, on the banks of a large river, which, uniting 
lower down its waters to those of the Cagoatan, became 
afterwards a tributary of the Tabasco. That up that river 
(the Cagoatan) there was another village, called Acumba; 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 13 

but that they were unable to shew me the way thither by 
land. 

At this town of Cagoatan we remained twenty days, in- 
cessantly occupied in finding out some road that might take 
us onwards; but the country around us was so full of 
morasses and lakoons, that we could not stir out of the 
place, and all our efforts proved in vain. Yet we were soon 
placed in such a state of jeopardy, through the exhaustion 
of our provisions, that we made up our minds to risk our 
lives in the attempt. Accordingly, having previously com- 
mended our souls to God our Creator, we threw a bridge 
over a morass, three hundred paces in length ; and on this 
bridge, which was formed by many large pieces of timber, 
measuring thirty five or forty feet in length, crossed by 
others of similar dimensions, we passed the said morass, 
setting out immediately in search of that chain of moun- 
tains near to which stood, as we were told, the town of 
Chilapan. In the meanwhile, I sent by another route a 
troop of hora men and certain archers in the direction of 
the other village, called Acumba, and they were fortunate 
enough to find it that very day. Having swam through a 
river, or crossed it in two canoes which they found on its 
bank, they came suddenly upon the village, whose inhabit- 
ants took to flight. My men found inside plenty of provi- 
sion, two Indians and some women, with whom they came 
to meet me. I slept that night in the fields. 

On the next day God permitted that we should come to a 
country more open and dry, and less covered with swamps, 
so that, guided by the Indians taken at Acumba, 1 we arrived 
the day after, at a very late hour, at the town of Chilapan, 

1 The name of this place is differently written in the copies that I 
have examined : some have Attumba, others Acumba. That of the 
Royal Academy, Acumbra ; whilst the Vienna one, which appears the 
most ancient, reads distinctly Ocumba. There are not wanting writers 
who identify it with Cicimbra. 



14 THE FIFTH LETTER 

which we found completely burnt down, and its inhabitants 
all gone. 

This town of Chilapan is beautifully situated, and very 
large. It is surrounded by plantations of trees, bearing the 
usual fruits of the land : the fields were filled with maize or 
Indian corn, which, though. not yet in all its maturity, was 
of great help to us in our necessity. 

I remained ten days at Chilapan, laying in provisions for 
the journey, and ordering certain excursions to be made in 
the neighbourhood, with a view to secure, if possible, some 
natives from whom I might learn the road; but with the ex- 
ception of two, who were, at first found hiding in the village, 
all our search was in vain. From these, however, I ascer- 
tained upon inquiry the road to Tepetitan, 1 otherwise called 
Tamacastepeque; and, although they hardly knew their way 
thither, we were lucky enough, sometimes through their 
leading, and at others by our own device, to reach that 
place on the second day. We had to cross a very large 
river, called Chilapan, wherefrom the aforesaid town takes 
its name; which was done with great difficulty, owing to the 
depth of the waters and the rapidity of the current: we used 
rafts, there being no canoes at the place ; and we lost a 
negro, who was drowned, and much luggage belonging to 
my Spaniards. 

After this river, which we crossed at a place distant one 
league and a half from the said village of Chilapan, we had 
to pass, before reaching Tepetitan, several extensive and 
deep swamps or morasses, in all of which except one the 
horses sank deep to their knees, and sometimes to their ears. 
Between Chilapan and Tepetitan, a distance of six or seven 
leagues, the ground was covered with similar swamps ; one, 
in particular, we found so dangerous that, although a bridge 

1 Sometimes written Tepetican or Tepetizan, which comes to the 
same, Spaniards of this time using indifferently the letters 9 and z to 
express analogous sounds. 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 15 

was thrown over it, yet two or three Spaniards were very- 
near being drowned. 

After two days of very fatiguing march we reached the 
said village of Tepetitan, which we found also burnt down 
and deserted, our troubles and anxiety being thereby much 
increased. We found inside some fruits of the land, and in 
the neighbourhood fields of maize still unripe, though taller 
than that of Chilapan. We also discovered, under some of 
the burnt houses, granaries with small quantities of dried 
[Indian] corn, which were of great help in the extremity to 
which we had been reduced. 

At this village of Tepetitan, which stands at the foot of a 
chain of mountains, I stayed six full days, causing inroads 
to be made in search of natives who might be persuaded to 
return peaceably to their dwellings, and point out to us the 
road to follow next. My Spaniards could only find one man 
and some women, from whom I learned that the chief and 
inhabitants of the town had been induced by the people 
of Cagoatan to set fire to their village and fly to the moun- 
tains. The Indian did not know the way to Iztapan, the 
next place on my map, there being, as he said, no road to it 
by land ; but he undertook to guide me towards the spot 
where he knew it to stand. 

With this Indian as a guide, I sent thirty of my Spaniards 
on horseback, and thirty more on foot, with instructions to 
find out the village of Iztapan, and once in it to write to me 
a description of the road which I was to follow, determined 
as I was not to move from the place where I had encamped 
until I heard from them. They started on their expedition ; 
but at the end of two days, having received no letters, nor 
otherwise heard from them — seeing, moreover, the extreme 
want to which we were reduced, I decided to follow them 
without a guide, and with no other indication of the road 
they had taken than the impression of their footsteps in the 
awfully miry swamps with which the country is covered; for 



16 THE FIFTH LETTER 

I can assure your Majesty that even on the top of the hills 
our horses, led as they were hy hand, and without their 
riders, sank to their girths in the mire. 

In this manner I marched for two consecutive days with- 
out receiving any tidings of the people I had sent forward 
to Iztapan, and therefore greatly puzzled as to what I was 
to do next ; for to go back was impossible, and to proceed 
on my march without having a certainty of the road, seemed 
to me equally dangerous. In this perplexity, God, who in 
our greatest afflictions comes often to our help, was pleased 
to permit that, whilst we were encamped in great sadness 
and tribulation, thinking that we were all doomed to perish 
of hunger, two Indians should arrive bearing letters from 
those Spaniards whom I had sent onwards. They informed 
me that on their arrival at the village of Iztapan, they found 
that the natives had sent all their women and property 
across a large river, which ran close to the place, and that 
the village itself was full of natives thinking that they (the 
Spaniards) would not be able to pass a great morass close to 
it. However, when they saw my men swimming across it on 
their horses, they were very much frightened, and began to set 
fire to their village. In this they were prevented by my 
men, who hastened to put it out, seeing which, all the in- 
habitants took to their heels and ran to the bank of the 
river, which they crossed, either in numerous canoes they 
had there, or by swimming ; the haste and confusion occa- 
sioned by it being so great, that many of them were drowned. 
My Spaniards, nevertheless, had succeeded in securing seven 
or eight, among whom there was one who seemed to be a 
chief. The letter further added that they were anxiously 
expecting my arrival. 

I cannot describe to your Majesty the joy this unexpected 
news caused among my men ; for at the time it came they 
were almost in a state of despair, as I said before. Early 
on the next day I followed the track, being also guided by 



OF HERN AN CORTES. 17 

the Indians who had brought the letter, and in this manner 
arrived at Iztapan late in the evening. I there found the 
Spaniards in a high state of glee, owing to their having 
discovered, besides many maize plantations — though the grain 
had not yet reached its maturity — great abundance of yuca 
and agi} two plants which constitute the principal food of 
the people of the Islands, 2 and make a tolerably good meal. 
Immediately upon my arrival at Iztapan, I sent for the 
natives who had been taken prisoners, and asked them, 
through an interpreter, what could be the reason of their 
thus setting fire to their houses and deserting their village, 
when I intended them no harm, but on the contrary had 
always given those who remained part of what I had with 
me. Their answer was that the lord of Qagoatan had 
arrived among them in a canoe, and had frightened them 
very much, making them set their village on fire and desert 
it. I then summoned the chief man to my presence, as well 
as the Indians of both sexes taken at Qagoatan, Chilapan, 
and Tepetitan, and explained to him how the lord of Qagoatan 
was a bad man, who had deceived them ; and that, in order 
to test the truth of my words, he had only to interrogate 
those Indians now before him, and ask them whether I or 
any of my people had ever done them any injury. He did 
ask them ; and having heard from their own mouths how 
kindly I had behaved towards them, they all began to cry, 
saying how much they had been deceived, and shewing 
their sorrow for what they had done. I then, in order to 
give them more security and confidence, granted permission 
to all the Indians who had come with me from the other 
villages to return to their homes, giving them some trifles, 

1 Aji, sometimes written agi, is the red Indian dwarf pepper of which 
the Mexicans of the present day still make use for their meals. As to 
the yuca, it is the plant generally known as Adam's needle, the root of 
which is farinaceous. 

2 By " las Islas," the islands, the Spaniards of this day meant Cuba, 
Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, and other western islands. 



18 THE FIFTH LETTER 

as well as certain letters of mine for each village, which 
I said they were to keep carefully by them, and shew to 
any Spaniards who chanced to pass by, in order not to be 
in the least molested. I likewise recommended them to say 
to their chiefs, as coming from me, what mischief they had 
done in setting fire to their villages and deserting their 
homes; that they were not to do it again, but on the 
contrary to remain in their respective dwellings, whenever 
Spaniards came to their villages, under the security that no 
harm or injury would be inflicted upon them. 

When the people of Iztapan heard this, they went away 
greatly satisfied and happy, which was the means of in- 
spiring security to the inhabitants of other villages in the 
neighbourhood. After this, I addressed myself to that 
Indian who seemed to be a chief among them, and told him 
to mind how I did no harm to any one about me; neither 
had I come to those parts for the purpose of offending 
them, but on the contrary, to teach them many things well 
suited for the security of their persons, and the welfare and 
salvation of their souls. That I therefore begged he would 
send two or three of those Indians who were in his company, 
to whom I would add an equal number from among the 
natives of Tenuxtitan, to deliver a message from me to the 
lord of Iztapan, and persuade him to come back to his 
village without fear, and under the certainty that no harm 
would be done to him or his people, but on the contrary he 
would be greatly benefited by his return. The Indian 
having shewn his readiness to execute my message, started 
immediately on his errand, accompanied by some Mexicans. 
On the morning of the next day he came back, bringing 
with him the lord of Iztapan, and about forty natives of 
that place, who had abandoned the place on the arrival of 
my men. He assured me that if he set his village on fire 
and fled, he did it at the instigation of the said lord of 
Qagoatan, who had come in those parts telling him not to 



OF HERN AN CORTES. 19 

wait for the arrival of the Spaniards, who would most 
certainly put him and his people to death. But now that he 
learned from his own people how much he had been de- 
ceived, and that the lord of Qagoatan had told him a lie, he 
felt very sorry for what he had done, and accordingly 
begged my pardon, shewing his readiness to do whatever 
I might be pleased to order him. lie, however, humbly 
besought me to grant that some women, taken by the 
Spaniards at the time they entered his village, should be 
given back to him. I immediately complied with this 
request, ordering that some twenty women, who were then 
in the camp, and had been taken when the village was 
entered, should be returned to him, at which he shewed 
great satisfaction. 

It happened, however, that a Spaniard saw one of the 
Indians who had come with me from Tenuxtitlan eating 
a piece of flesh taken from the body of another Indian, 
whom he had killed on entering Iztapan. When the case 
was reported to me, I had the Indian arrested, and there, in 
the presence of the chief, had him burnt alive, for having 
slain and afterwards eaten of his fellow-creature — an abomi- 
nation which your Majesty, and I myself in your royal 
name, have repeatedly deprecated, ordering the people of 
those parts to abstain from it. I therefore made the lord 
understand that if I punished that man with death, it was 
because, in disobedience to your Majesty's commands, he 
had slain and afterwards eaten of the flesh of his fellow - 
creature. That my wish was that nobody should be hurt, 
having been sent to those parts merely for the purpose of 
protecting them and taking care of their property, as well as 
shewing them the way of worshipping one only God, who 
is in heaven, Creator and Maker of all things, by whose will 
all living creatures are governed. In order to do this, they 
were to relinquish all their idols and their abominable rites, 
because they were nothing more than lies and deceptions of 



20 THE FIFTH LETTER 

the devil, who, being the sworn enemy of mankind, had 
devised those and other similar arts to ensure their per- 
petual damnation in the midst of horrible and everlasting 
tortures. That the devil was thus trying to lead them 
away from the knowledge of one only and true God, shutting 
them from the path of salvation, and preventing by all 
means in his power that they should partake of that glory 
and blessed happiness awaiting those who believe in God, in 
an abode of everlasting bliss, which the devil himself had lost 
owing to his disobedience and malice. 

That another of the objects of my mission was to inform 
them how, by the will of divine Providence, your Majesty 
stood obeyed and respected throughout the world, and 
therefore that they were bound to place themselves under 
the imperial sway, and do whatever we, who are your 
Majesty's ministers in these parts, should command them to 
do. If they did as I told them, they were sure to be very 
well treated, and maintained in justice, and their persons 
and properties protected ; if on the contrary, proceedings 
would be instituted against them, and they would be pun- 
ished according to law. Many other things I told them to 
the same end, which I omit for brevity's sake. 

Great was the joy shewn by the lord of Iztapan when he 
heard this discourse of mine. He immediately ordered 
some of the Indians who had come with him to go back and 
bring provisions, which they did. I gave him a few trifles 
of Spanish manufacture, which pleased him exceedingly ; 
and he remained in my company as long as I stayed at 
Iztapan. After this, he ordered some of his men to open 
a road for me to a village called Tatahuitalpan, 1 five leagues 
up the river ; and as there was in the way thither a very 
deep river, he caused a beautiful bridge to be made, over 
which we crossed, and had also some morasses of the very 
worst description arranged and filled for our passage. He 

1 Sometimes written Yatahuitalpan. 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 21 

likewise gave me three canoes, in which I sent as many- 
Spaniards down the river to Tabasco — this being one of its 
principal tributaries — where the great caravels, as I said 
before, were waiting for my orders. They were to follow 
the coast till they came to a cape, called Yucatan, which 
they were to double, and then proceed to Assumption 1 
Bay, where they would find me, or else receive instructions 
as to what they were to do next. I, moreover, gave orders 
to the three Spaniards who went down the river that, using 
their three canoes, and all those they could collect in the 
provinces of Tabasco and Xiculango, they should bring me 
as many provisions as they could by a great sheet of water 2 
communicating with the province of Aculan, forty leagues 
distant from Iztapan, where I would wait for them. 

The Spaniards being gone to their destination and the 
road completed, I begged the lord of Iztapan to give me 
three or four more canoes, and some of his people, under 
a chief, who might accompany six of my Spaniards up the 
river, and endeavour, as they went on, to quiet the natives 
and prevent their setting fire to their villages and deserting 
them. This he did with every appearance of good will, and 
my people, accompanied as they were by Indians from 
Iztapan, succeeded in appeasing the inhabitants of four or 
five villages up the river, as I will hereafter inform your 
Majesty. 

Iztapan is a very fine town. It is situated on the bank of 
a very large river, and has many advantages which make it 
a fit abode for Spaniards. Pasture is excellent along 
the banks of the river : it has good arable land, and its 
territory is well peopled. 

1 It has already been observed elsewhere that this bay is now called 
in the maps Ascension Bay. 

2 The word used is estero, which in these times meant an arm of the 
sea, a piece of water, sweet or salt, far inland ; sometimes, also, a creek 
or small port, a gulf. 



22 THE FIFTH LETTER 

Having spent eight days at Iztapan, and issued for the 
maintenance of my people the orders specified in the above 
paragraph, I set out for Tatahuitalpan, where I arrived the 
same day, and found the village — which was a small one — 
entirely burnt down and deserted, I was the first to arrive 
by land, because the canoes I had sent up the river found 
the current so strong, and met with so many windings, that 
they could not come up in time. No sooner did they arrive, 
than I sent them across the river in search of some natives 
whom I could speak to, and induce, as I had the others 
before them, to return peaceably to their dwellings. About 
half a league inland, my men met with some twenty Indians 
inside a house or temple, where they had a number of idols 
very finely arrayed. Being brought into my presence, 
they informed me that all their countrymen had deserted 
the place through fear, but that as to themselves, they had 
preferred remaining on the spot and dying next to their 
idols. Whilst I was conversing with them, some of our 
Mexican Indians happened to pass by loaded with things 
taken from those very idols ; which, being observed by the 
people, they set up a cry, saying : " Our gods are dead." 
Hearing this, I addressed myself to them, and told them to 
consider what a vain and foolish thing their creed was, since 
they placed their trust and confidence in rude idols which 
had not even the power of protecting themselves, and could 
not prevent their own ruin and destruction. Their answer 
was that their fathers had lived in that creed, and that until 
they knew of a better one, they would persevere in it. I 
could not for the moment tell them on this subject more 
than I had already said to the -pie of Iztapan ; but 
two Franciscan friars, who cam . in my suite, conversed at 
some length with them on matters of religion. 

I requested some of these Indians to go in search of their 
own countrymen, and bring them, as well as their chief, 
back to the village. The Iztapan chief whom I had with me at 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 23 

the time also spoke to them, mentioning the good treatment he 
and his people had experienced at our hands whilst in pos- 
session of their village. Upon which the Indians pointed 
out one of themselves, saying " this is our lord"; and he 
immediately dispatched two of them towards the people, 
bidding them to return, which they never did. 

Seeing that they refused to come back, I desired that 
Indian who had declared himself to be their lord to shew me 
the road to Qagoatespan, 1 a place up the river, through 
which I had necessarily to pass if 1 was to follow the 
indications of the map given to me by the people of Tabasco. 
He answered that he knew not the way by land, but only 
by water, which was their sole mode of travelling. He, 
nevertheless, offered to do his best, and guide us through 
those mountains, hoping he might find his way. I did not 
accept his services, but told him and his people to point out 
to me the spot where the village stood, which they did. 
I marked it down on the map, in the best manner I could, 
and ordered the Spaniards who were in the canoes to take 
along with them that Iztapan chief, and go up the river 
until they should come to the said village of Qagoatespan. 
Arrived there, they were to do their utmost to appease the 
people of the said village, as well as those of another one 
called Ozumazintlan, 2 which they must necessarily meet on 
their way. If I arrived first, I would wait for them ; if on 
the contrary, they were to wait for me. 

This matter being settled and the Spaniards gone on their 
expedition, I took the land road, preceded by those guides. 
No sooner had we left the village of Tatahuitalpan than we 
came to a great morass, upwards of half a league in length, 
which we managed to pass, the Indians, our friends, having 

1 The Vienna copy has Zaguatapan ; we read in others Siguatecpan : it is 
perhaps the same place called Oiguatepecad by Bernal Diaz, fol. 198, v°. 

2 This name has been corrupted by the copyists into Cocuniazantan 
and Cocuniazantlan. 



24 THE FIFTH LETTEIt 

helped us by laying on our path great quantity of grass and 
branches of trees. After this we came to a very deep 
lagoon, over which we were compelled to throw a bridge 
for the passage of the heavy luggage and of the horses' 
saddles, the horses themselves swimming across it led by the 
hand. Immediately after this we came to another deep 
lagoon, extending for more than one league, and occasionally 
intersected by swamps, where our horses sank always knee- 
deep, and sometimes as far as the girdles ; but the ground 
at the bottom being rather harder than usual, we passed it 
without accident, and arrived at the foot of a mountain 
covered with thick wood. We cut our way through this as 
well as we could for two consecutive days, until our guides 
declared that they had lost all traces of the road, and could 
proceed no further. The mountain was so high, and the 
forest so thick and impenetrable, that we could only see the 
spot where we placed our feet, or, looking upwards, the 
blue sky over our heads ; and the trees were so tall and so 
close to each other, that those who climbed up them to 
discover land could not see beyond a stone's throw. 

As the Spaniards who had been sent forwards with the 
guides to cut a path through the mountain communicated to 
me this painful information, I gave immediate orders that they 
should remain where they were, whilst I proceeded thither 
on foot that I might judge by myself of the gravity of the 
case. Having found upon inspection that the report was 
but too true, I made the people go back to a small morass 
which we had passed the day before, and where, on account 
of the water in it, there was some grass for the horses to eat, for 
they had not tasted anything for forty-eight hours. There 
we remained all that night greatly tormented by hunger, 
which was further increased by the little hope we had of 
arriving at a place of habitation. In this emergency, and 
seeing my people more dead than alive, I asked for a marine 
compass, which I was in the habit of carrying always with 



OF HKRNAN CORTES. 25 

me, and which had often been of much use — though never 
so much as on that occasion — and recollecting the spot 
where the Indians had told me that the village stood, I found 
by calculation that, by marching in a north-eastern direction, 
we should come upon the village, or very near to it. I then 
ordered those who went forwards cutting the road to take 
that compass, and to guide themselves by it, which they did. 
And thus it pleased our Lord that my calculations turned 
out so true, that about the hour of vespers my men fell in 
with some idol-houses in the centre of the village. On 
hearing which the rest of my people felt so great a joy, that 
they all ran in that direction, without heeding a large 
swamp that stood in their way, and in which many horses 
sank so deep that they could not be extricated from it until 
the next day, God, however, permitting that we should not 
lose one of them. Those who were in the rear with me 
crossed the swamp in another direction, and were fortunate 
enough to reach the place without accident, although with 
considerable trouble and difficulty. 

Qagoatespan was entirely burnt down, even to the mosques 1 
and idol-houses. We found nobody in the town, as it was 
completely deserted, and therefore could not obtain news of 
the canoes I had sent up the river. There was plenty of 
maize riper than that of other places, yuca and peppers, 
besides good pasture for our horses, the banks of the river, 
which seemed very fertile, being covered with very fine 
grass. Thus refreshed, we began to forget some of our 
past troubles, although I, in particular, felt great anxiety at 
not hearing news of the canoes I had sent up the river. 
I was in this village looking about me, and examining the 
neighbouring districts, when I saw an arrow planted in the 

1 The Spanish mezquita, from the Arabic mesjld, means a mosque, a 
place of worship for Mahometans ; but the writers of the fifteenth 
century used that word indiscriminately to designate any spot for 
pagan worship. 



26 THE FIFTH LETTER 

earth, which to me was a proof of the canoes having passed 
that spot, for all the men I sent in them were archers ; but 
this very circumstance made me suspect that they might have 
since come to blows with the people of the village, and been 
slain in the affray, since they did not make their appearance. 
In order to ascertain, if possible, the truth, I put some of 
my people in certain small canoes that were there found, 
and sent them across the river to explore. They soon met 
with a great number of Indians, and saw many cultivated 
fields, and, proceeding on their errand, came upon a large 
lake, where, partly in canoes and partly in certain small 
islands, all the people of the village had congregated ; 
though, at sight of the Spaniards, instead of running away, 
as usual, they came up to meet them with great glee, and said 
things which my people could not understand. They, how- 
ever, brought to my presence some thirty or forty of them, 
whom I addressed through an interpreter, putting the usual 
questions to them. Their answer was that they had been 
induced by the lord of Qagoatan to set fire to their village 
and take shelter in those lakes where they now were, all 
this being done through fear of us. That after this they 
had been visited by some of my men coming there in boats, 
as well as by natives of Iztapan, from whom they had 
learned the good treatment I gave to all Indians, whereby 
their fears had subsided. That my Spaniards had been 
there two days waiting for me, but seeing I did not come, 
they had gone up the river to another village, called Petenecte, 
accompanied by a brother of their chief and some people in 
four canoes, to help them in case of need against the in- 
habitants of -that place ; that they had besides given them 
plenty of provisions and everything else they could want. 

This news gave me great satisfaction ; and as the bearers 
had come to me of their own accord, I had no difficulty in 
believing them. I, however, begged they would send for 
one of their canoes, and dispatch it with a crew in search of 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 27 

those Spaniards of mine who had gone up the river to 
Petenecte. They were to take them a letter of mine with 
orders not to go any further and come back to me. This 
they did in a very short time ; for on the evening of next 
day, at the hour of vespers, my Spaniards made their appear- 
ance, followed by the Indians who had gone in search of them, 
as well as by four canoes laden with provisions and manned 
by Indians belonging to the village whence they came. 

Having asked the said Spaniards to tell me their adven- 
tures up the river from the time they left me at Tatahuitalpan, 
their report was as follows : When they arrived at Ozuma- 
zintlan, 1 the village immediately above this, they found the 
place completely destroyed by fire, and the inhabitants very 
much frightened ; but upon the arrival of the people of 
Iztapan, who accompanied them, some of the fugitives had 
been persuaded to return to their homes, their fears had 
subsided, and they had given the Spaniards food and every- 
thing else they asked for. After this they had gone to 
Qagoatespan, which they also found deserted, and the in- 
habitants gone to the opposite side of the river ; but on the 
people of Iztapan coming up and speaking to them, they 
came back to their village and received the Spaniards very 
well, giving them in abundance of everything they could 
want. There they had waited two days for me, but seeing 
that I did not come, and believing that I was gone to some 
place further up the river, they had determined to go on to 
Petenecte, 2 which is six leagues beyond Qagoatespan, taking 
with them as guides the people of that village and a brother 
of their chief. They found Petenecte deserted, though 
not burnt down, and the inhabitants on the opposite bank 
of the river; but the people of Iztapan and those of 

1 The Vienna copy Uzumazintlan, in others Imacintlan ; but as there 
can be no doubt that it is the same village mentioned in p. 23, I have 
adopted that reading. 

2 Sometimes written Penecte, with the omission of one syllable. 



28 THE FIFTH LETTER 

Qagoatespan had spoken to them, and inspired them with 
confidence, and induced them to come and see me; and they 
were actually coming down in four canoes, bringing maize, 
honey, cocao, and a small quantity of gold. They had sent 
messengers to three more villages up the river, named 
Coazacoalco, 1 Caltencingo and Teutitan, and they believed 
that on the next day they would come to see me. So they 
did ; for at the appointed hour we saw coming down the 
river seven or eight canoes filled with people from those 
three villages, who brought pounded maize, and gold in 
small quantities. I spoke to them for some time, and tried 
to make them understand how they were to believe in God, 
and serve your Majesty. Every one of them promised then 
and there to become your Majesty's vassal, to obey the 
imperial commands, and do at any time whatever he might be 
desired to do. In particular, the natives of that village 
called Qagoatespan brought before me some of their idols, 
and there, in my presence, broke them into pieces, and 
having lighted a fire, threw them into it. After this the 
principal chief of the place, who had not yet shown himself, 
came and brought me some gold ; and I gave every one of 
them some of the trifles I had with me, whereupon they 
were very much pleased, and felt very secure. 

Having asked them the road to Aculan, there was some 
difference of opinion among them; some, among whom were 
the people of Cagoatespan, pretended that my way lay 
through the villages up the river, and that they had pur- 
posely caused six leagues of road to be opened up in that 
direction, and ordered a bridge to be thrown over a certain 
river which we should have to pass. Others maintained 

1 The names of these places, which it will be a vain task to look for 
in the maps, are variously written in some of the MSS. Instead of 
Coazacoalco, we have Coalzasestal ; instead of Caltencingo, Taltenango 
and Caltancingo : Teutitan is written Tautitan, Testitan, and even 
Tabsenango. Coazacoalco must be a different place from that which was 
the resideuce of Bernal Diaz. See p. 10. 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 29 

that this route, besides being a very bad one, was by far the 
longest, and that my best and shortest road to Acalan 1 was 
to cross the river at the place where we were, for on the 
other side we would find a small track which was very much 
frequented and used by pedlars, and led straight to that 
village. Finally, after much disputing, it was settled between 
them that this last was the better road to take. 

I had, on my first arrival at Qagoatespan, dispatched in 
the direction of Aculan one of my Spaniards, accompanied 
by several natives of the place, with instructions to inform 
the people of that province of my intended visit, and 
endeavour to appease them and calm their fears. My 
messenger was likewise to ascertain whether those of my 
people who had been entrusted with the bringing provisions 
from the bri^antines were arrived at their destination or 
not. I now sent in that same direction four more Spaniards, 
attended by guides selected from among the natives, and 
who professed to know their way thither, in order that they 
might report about it, and tell me whether the road was 
practicable or not ; they would Mud me at Qagoatespan, 
where I was to wait for their answer. 

But soon after the departure of the four Spaniards sent to 
Aculan I changed my mind ; and although I had promised 
to remain at Qagoatespan until I should have their report, 
1 nevertheless considered myself bound to prosecute my 
march. The reason was this : I was afraid that, by remain- 
ing there any length of time, the provisions I had made for 
the journey would be exhausted, for I was told that we 
should have to march five or six days without meeting a 
single living soul. 

I began, therefore, to pass the river in canoes, an operation 

which, owing to its width and to the strength of the current, 

could not be effected without some difficulty and danger. 

One horse was drowned, and some packages belonging to 

1 Sometimes written Acalan. 



30 THE FIFTH LETTER 

my Spaniards were also lost. Having, however, crossed the 
river, I sent forward a troop of pioneers to open the road 
in front, whilst I, with the rest of the men, followed in the 
rear. In this way, after traversing for three consecutive 
days a mountainous district covered with thick wood, we 
came by a very narrow path to a large lagoon, measuring 
upwards of five hundred paces in width, and for the passage 
of which we tried in vain to find a place: it could never be 
found, neither up nor down, and our guides ended by 
declaring that unless we marched for twenty consecutive 
days in the direction of the mountains we should never be 
able to turn that lagoon. 

I cannot well describe what were my disappointment and 
dismay on the receipt of such intelligence, for crossing that 
deep lagoon seemed a matter of utter impossibility, on 
account of its great width and of our not having boats. 
Even if we had had them for the men and heavy lu^oragre. 
the horses would have found, in going in and out of it, most 
awful morasses, sprinkled with roots and stems of trees, and 
so shaped that, unless the beasts could fly over them, it was 
quite out of the question to attempt the crossing. Retracing 
our steps was equivalent to certain death, not only on 
account of the bad roads we had to go over, and the heavy 
rains that had lately fallen, but because we would find no 
food of any sort. It was, moreover, evident that the rivers 
had swollen since and carried away the bridges constructed 
by us; to make these again was entirely out of the question, 
for my people were exhausted by fatigue. It was also 
probable that we should find no provisions on the road, having 
already eaten the little there was, and our numbers being 
so considerable, for besides the Spaniards and their horses, 
I was then followed by upwards of three thousand natives. 

I have already stated above the difficulties that stood in 
the w r ay of our going on ; the danger of retracing our steps 
was equally great ; so that no man's intelligence, however 



OF HKRNAN CORTES. 31 

powerful, could find means to extricate us from our position, 
if God, who is the true remedy and help in all afflictions, 
had not aided us. For when I was almost reduced to 
despair, I accidentally found a small canoe that had served 
for the passage of those Spaniards sent by me to inspect the 
road. I immediately took possession of it, and set about 
having the lagoon sounded, so as to ascertain the depth of 
its waters, which I found to be of at least four fathoms all 
the way. I then had some spears tied together and sunk 
into the water, to see the quality of the soil, and it was 
found that besides the said depth of four fathoms, there 
were at least two more of mud and mire at the bottom, 
There was, therefore, no other alternative left us save the 
construction of a bridge, however difficult the undertaking 
might prove, owing to the depth of the waters. I immedi- 
ately set about distributing among the people the work to 
be done and the timber to cut. The beams or posts were to 
be from nine to ten fathoms in length, owing to the portion 
that was to remain above water. I gave orders that each 
Indian chief of those who followed our camp should,' in 
proportion to the number of men he had under his orders, 
cut down and bring to the spot a certain number of trees of 
the required length, whilst I and my Spaniards, some of us 
on rafts and some in that canoe and in two more that were 
found afterwards, began to plant the posts in the bed of the 
river. But the work was so fatiguing, and so difficult at 
the same time, that all my men despaired of its ever being 
finished. Some even went so far as to privately express 
their opinion that it was far preferable to return now, than 
tarry until the men should be completely exhausted by 
fatigue and hunger ; for the bridge could never be made fit 
for passage, and therefore, sooner or later, we should be 
compelled to abandon the" undertaking and retrace our steps. 
This opinion gained so mlich ground among my Spaniards, 
that they almost dared to utter it in my presence ; upon 



32 THE FIFTH LETTER 

which, seeing them so disheartened — and I confess they 
had good reasons to be so, the work I had undertaken 
being of such a nature that we could hardly expect to see it 
completed — knowing that we were without provisions, and 
that for some days our only food had been the roots of 
certain plants, I decided that they should no longer work at 
the bridge, intending to make it exclusively with the help 
of the Indians. I immediately sent for the chiefs of these, 
and having explained to them what our situation was, I 
told them that we must cross that river or perish in the 
attempt. That I begged, therefore, they would unite their 
efforts, and encourage their men to the construction of a 
solid bridge, for the river once crossed, we would soon 
come to a province called Aculan, where there was abund- 
ance of food, and where we might repose ourselves. That 
besides the provisions of every kind to be had in that 
country, they well knew how I had ordered that some 
of that stored in the ships should be conveyed thither 
in boats, so that upon our arrival we could not fail 
to be provided with every necessary of life. Besides which, 
I solemnly promised to them that upon our return to this 
great city of Tenuxtitlan, whereof most of them were natives, 
they would be most munificently rewarded by me in your 
Majesty's name. They agreed to work at it viribus et posse, 
and began at once to divide the task between them, and 
I must say that they worked so hard, and with such good 
will, that in less than four days they constructed a fine 
bridge, over which the whole of the men and horses passed. 
So solidly built it was, that I have no doubt it will stand 
for upwards of ten years without breaking — unless it is 
burnt down — being formed by upwards of one thousand 
beams, the smallest of which was as thick round as a man's 
body, and measured nine or ten fathoms in length, without 
counting a great quantity of lighter timber that was used as 
planks. And I can assure your Majesty that I do not 



OF HF.RNAN CORTFS. So 

believe there is a man in existence capable of explaining in 
a satisfactory manner the dexterity which these lords of 
Tenuxtitlan, and the Indians under them, displayed in con- 
structing the said bridge : I can only sav that it is the most 
wonderful thing that ever was seen. 

All the men and horses once out of the lagoon, we came 
up, as it was feared, to a large morass, which lasted for three 
arrow throws, the most frightful thing that man ever saw, 
unsaddled horses sinking into it in such manner that at 
times their ears only could be seen ; the more the poor- 
beasts tried to get out of it, the deeper they sank into the 
mire, so that we soon lost all hope of saving any of them 
or even passing ourselves ; yet by dint of perseverance and 
work we contrived to put under them certain bundles of 
grass, and light branches of trees, whereupon they might 
support themselves so as not to sink altogether, by which 
operation they were somewhat relieved. We were thus en- 
gaged going backwards and forwards to the assistance of our 
horses, when fortunately for us a narrow channel of water 
and mud was discovered, in which the beasts began at 
once to move and swim a little, so that with the help of God 
they all came out safe, though so fatigued from the constant 
exertion that they could hardly stand on their feet*. We all 
offered many thanks to our Supreme Lord for the immense 
favour received at his hands, for it is certain that without 
his merciful assistance we should all have perished on the 
spot, men and horses. 

We had scarcely crossed the mora*ss when we were met 
by the Spaniards whom I had sent forward to Aculan, 
bringing with them about eighty Indians, natives of that pro- 
vince, laden with provisions of every kind, maize, fowls, and 
so forth. God only knows the joy we felt at sight of these 
good things, especially at hearing that the Indians of Aculan 
were peaceably inclined, and had shown no inclination to 
desert their villages. With those Indians came two men of 



34 THE FIFTH LETTER 

some authority among them, who professed to have been 
sent by a chief named Apaspolon, 1 with a message to me, 
purporting how pleased he was with my intended visit to 
his dominions ; that he already knew who I was, through 
merchants of Tabasco and Xiculango travelling in those 
parts, and that he would be delighted to make my acquaint- 
ance ; finally, that he sent me some gold,, which his people 
produced. 

I received the gold, and told them to thank their chief 
in my name for his goodwill towards me, as well as for the 
readiness he showed for your Majesty's service. I bestowed 
on them a few trifles, and dismissed them, in company with 
the very Spaniards whom they had guided to the spot, all 
seeming very happy and pleased. They however showed 
their admiration of the bridge, and highly praised its 
structure, which circumstance contributed in no small 
degree to the confidence we afterwards placed in them ; for 
their country lying among lakes and morasses, they might 
easily, if they chose, hide themselves or escape through 
them ; but when they saw the wonderful structure of that 
bridge, they calculated that there was nothing we could not 
achieve. 

About this time an Indian messenger arrived from the 
town of St. Esteban del Puerto, on the river of Panuco, 
bringing me letters from the governors and alcaldes of those 
parts. He was accompanied by four or five other Indians, 
who also brought letters from this city of Tenuxtitlan, and 
from Medellin, and from the town of Espiritu Santo. This 
gave me much satisfaction, seeing by the contents of the 
letters that they were all doing well, though I had no news 
either of the factor Gonzalo de Salazar, or of the veedor 
Peralmindez, whom, as I said before, I had despatched from 
the town of Espiritu Santo, to settle the differences between 
the treasurer and accounting-master, and if possible make 
1 The Vienna copy calls him Cupaspolon. 



OF HERN AN CORTES. 35 

them friends ; for not having reached this city at the time 
the letters were written, these naturally said nothing ahout 
their doings. 

The day after the Indians and Spaniards sent to Aculan 
had taken their departure, I with the rest of my people 
began to march in that direction. I passed the night on the 
mountain, and on the following day, about the hour of noon, 
came to the nearest plantations and farms in the province 
of Aculan. We were, however, still separated from them 
by a large morass, the crossing of which gave us some 
trouble, though we succeeded at last by making a detour of 
nearly one league, and leading our horses by the bridle. 
About the hour of vespers we arrived at the. first village, 
called Ticatepelt, 1 the inhabitants of which we found very 
comfortably established in their houses, without showing the 
least sign of fear. They had plenty of food for men as well 
as horses, so that we were completely refreshed, and soon 
forgot all past troubles. 

I stayed six days at that village of Ticatepelt, and was 
visited by a young Indian of prepossessing appearance, with 
a good train of followers, who said he was the son of the 
lord of that country, and presented me with some gold and 
birds, offering besides to place his person and estate at your 
Majesty's command. This youth further told me that his father 
had lately died, and I accordingly showed him sympathy 
for his loss, though I was persuaded he was telling me an 
untruth. I then gave him a necklace of Flanders beads 
which I was wearing at the time and he very much prized, 
after which I dismissed him, and he went away after 
remaining two whole days by me of his own free will. 

One of the natives of Ticatepelt, who professed to be the 

chief of the place, having told me that there was in the 

neighbourhood another village, also belonging to him, 

whereat I could find better lodgings and more abundant 

1 Tizatepel in the Vienna MS. 



S6 THE FIFTH LETTER 

food — the village itself being larger and more populous — 
and hinting besides that if I went thither I should be 
more at ease, I at once accepted his proposal, and ordered 
him to have the road cleared by his men, and lodgings pre- 
pared against our arrival. Everything was done as I 
wishedj and we reached without difficulty that second 
village, which was distant about five leagues from the first. 
We also found the people there in a state of great tran- 
quillity, and a portion of the place already destined for our 
lodging. 

This village is very pretty, and is called Teutiercar 1 by 
the natives. There are in it very handsome mosques or 
idol-houses, where we took up our abode, casting out their 
gods, at which the natives showed no great discontent, 
owing no doubt to my having formerly spoken to them, and 
given them to understand the error in which they lived, 
telling them how there is one only God, creator of all 
things. I again had an opportunity of speaking on this 
subject to the principal chief, and to all of his people 
assembled, and he told me that one of those two mosques 
or idol-houses where we were lodging, and which was the 
largest, was dedicated to a goddess, in whom they placed all 
their faith and hopes, and that whenever they sacrificed to 
her they chose very beautiful virgins, because if they were 
not such she became very angry with them. That for this 
reason they always took special care to procure such 
as the goddess might accept and be pleased with them ; 
and that whenever a female child was found possessing 
beauty of form and a pretty face, she was immediately taken 
away from her parents, and brought up for that express 
purpose. 

On the subject of this nefarious practice and horrible 
cruelty, in which the devil with his usual perversity and 
art kept them entangled as in a thick net, I failed not to 
1 Elsewhere Teutiercas or Teubicras. 



OF HEHNAN CORTES. 37 

tell them what I considered necessrry for their salvation. 
They listened to me attentively, and seemed somewhat con- 
vinced by what they heard from my lips. 

The chief of the village treated me with great friendliness, 
and had long conversations with me, giving me a long and 
detailed account of the Spaniards in whose quest I tra- 
velled, and of the road I was to take to find them. He de- 
clared to me in a mysterious manner that Apospolon, the 
supreme lord of all that province, was still alive, though he 
had ordered his own people to say that he was dead. He 
begged and entreated me not to mention him as having been 
my informant, because, he said he might suffer from it. The 
young man who came to see me at Ticatepelt was, in fact, 
the son of Apospolon, but his father had given him in- 
structions to endeavour to put me and my people out of 
the direct way in order that we might not see the country 
and villages under his rule. He gave me this information 
out of friendship, and because, he was grateful for the favours 
received at my hands ; but he again entreated me not to 
reveal the matter to anyone, because, were Apospolon to know 
that he was my informant, he would immediately put him 
to death and set fire to his village. 

I thanked the chief for his information, gave him a few 
trifles, and promised to keep his secret, as he wished me to 
do, and to reward in future the service he had rendered to 
your Majesty. I then sent for the son of the lord, and told 
him how much I wondered at his father having refused to 
come and see me, knowing my good intentions towards them 
all, and my wish to do them honour, and give them of what 
I had by me in payment of their good reception, and of the 
favours they had dispensed on me. I added that I knew 
for certain that his father was alive, and that it was by his 
express orders that he had reported him as dead, and there- 
fore begged him to go and bring him back to me, for cer- 
tainly he would be much benefited by so doing. The youth 



38 THE FIFTH LETTER 

acknowledged that his father was alive, and that if he had 
given him out as dead, it was at his own express desire. He 
would go to him forthwith, and do all he could to bring him 
back : being confident of success, because his father had 
already heard a great deal about me, and knew that I had 
not come thither to do him harm, but on the contrary, to 
give him and his people of such trifles as I carried with me. 
He would have come already, only that, as he had given 
himself out as dead, he felt somewhat ashamed of appearing 
in my presence. 

I again begged the youth to go and try what he could do. 
He went, and returned the day after accompanied by his 
father, who made me his excuses, saying that, not knowing 
what my object was in coming to his estates, he had thought 
it prudent to deny himself; but now that he was acquainted 
with my motives for visiting his country, he was very glad 
to see me. He had, it is true, through fear of me, instructed 
his son to guide me by another route, away from his villages ; 
but now he begged that I would go to the capital of his 
states, where he resided, and where he could find greater 
facilities to provide me and my people with anything we 
might require. 

Having made this offer, which I accepted, he gave orders 
that a wide road should be opened, whilst he remained in my 
company. We started the day after, and I gave him one of 
my horses to ride by my side, and he went on very happy 
and contented till we came to a village called Icancanac, 1 
which is very large and full of mosques.- It stands on a 
large gulf or lagoon, which traverses the country as far as 
the ports of Terminos, Xiculango, and Tabasco. Some of its 
inhabitants had fled; others were in their houses. We found 
there plenty of provision, and Apospolon stayed with me in the 
very rooms prepared for my lodging, though he had close by 

1 Another copy Cancanas. 

2 See above, p. 25, and note. 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 39 

a house of his own, well provided with everything, and in- 
habited. As long as I remained at Icancanac he was parti- 
cularly useful to me, giving me information about the 
Spaniards in search of whom I came, and pointing out to me 
on a piece of cloth the road that I was to follow. He more- 
over gave me some gold and women, without my asking for 
them; I declare that on no occasion whatever have I asked 
the lords and chiefs of these parts to give me anything, 
unless they of their own aeccord and free will offered it. 

To prosecute my journey it was necessary to cross the 
above-mentioned lagoon, and before coming to it a morass. 
Apospolon caused a bridge to be thrown over this, and pro- 
vided me also with canoes for the crossing of the former. He 
gave me besides guides for the road, and another set of 
them in a canoe to conduct the Spaniard who had brought 
me the letters and message from St. Esteban del Puerto, 
as well as several canoes for the Indians who were returning 
to Mexico, and to the provinces of Tabasco and Xiculango. 
I gave that Spaniard letters for the authorities of the dif- 
ferent towns, and for the lieutenants whom 1 had left in this 
city of Tenuxtitlan, to govern in my absence, and for the 
masters of the ships that were at Tabasco, and for the 
Spaniards who were to come with the provisions, giving in- 
structions to all and every one of them as to what they were 
to do. 

This being done, I gave Apospolon some few trifles which 
he seemed to fancy, and leaving him contented, and all his 
country peaceably settled and secure, I started from that 
province of Aculan on the first Sunday of Lent of the year 
1525. That day we did nothing but cross the lagoon, which 
was no small matter. I ought to say that, at his own re- 
quest I gave Apospolon a letter, in order that if any 
Spaniards were to come that way they might know that 
I had passed through his estates, and considered him as my 
friend. 



40 THE FIFTH LETTER 

Iii the said province of Aculan an event occurred of which 
it is well that your Majesty should be informed. A good 
citizen of Tenuxtitlan, whose name was Mexicalcingo, but 
who received on his baptism that of Christoval, came to me 
one night in great secrecy, bringing with him certain drawings 
on a sheet of the paper used in that country. Having pro- 
ceeded to explain to me the meaning of the figures on that 
paper,he said to me that Guatemucin, 1 formerly lord of Tenux- 
titlan, and whom ever since the taking of this city I have kept 
a prisoner in my hands, on account of his rebellious nature 
and restless disposition — taking him with me wherever I 
went, as well as all the other chiefs and lords whom I 
thought cause of insecurity and revolt in this country — 
was endeavouring to form a conspiracy against me. The 
said Christoval explained how Guatemucin, and Guanacaxin, 2 
the lord of Tescuco, and Tetepanguecal, the lord of Tacuba, 
and a certain Tacatelz, 3 who was at that time residing in this 
city of Mexico, in the territory of Tatelulco, 4 had often told 
him, Mexicalcingo or Christoval, how sad it was to be de- 
prived of their personal estates, and of their power, by the 
Spaniards, and that they ought to find means of recovering 
their former possessions. That having consulted together 
many a time during the march, as to the best way of gain- 
ing their object, they had come to the conclusion that the 
best thing to do was to assassinate me and all the Spaniards 
who accompanied me, after which they might easily induce 
the natives of those provinces to rise, and marching against 
Christoval de Olid and his men, slay them all. This being 
accomplished, they would despatch their messengers to this 
city of Tenuxtitlan, inciting the people to rise and kill all 

1 Otherwise called Guateniozin, and Guateumezin. One of the copies 
has Guatamuzax. 

2 Guanacincen, sehor de Tasaico, in other copies. 

3 Perhaps Tacatelt, which seems a more Mexican termination. I find 
his name written also Tacatele and Tacitecle. 

4 Tlatelulco. 



OF HERN AN CORTES. 41 

the Spaniards, a thing which they flattered themselves might 
be easily achieved, owing to their being for the most part 
newly arrived and untrained to war. After this they would 
raise the country, and order a general slaughter of the 
Spaniards throughout the villages and towns, so that none 
might escape; and they would moreover place strong garrisons 
at all the seaports, so that no vessel coming from Castile could 
return thither and carry back the news. In this manner 
they flattered themselves they would again become lords and 
masters of the country, as they were before our arrival; and 
they felt so sure of their affair that they had already divided 
between them the various provinces of the empire, allotting 
one of them to the said Mexicalcingo (Christoval), my in- 
former, as his share. 

When I heard of this horrible plot framed against my 
life and that of my Spaniards, I thanked God for having 
thus revealed it to me through that worthy Indian. Early 
in the morning of the next day I ordered all those Mexican 
lords who had come in my suit to be arrested, and had them 
placed each in one room, away from one another, so that 
they might not communicate. I then went to see them 
one by one, and interrogated them about the plot, pretending 
that I had been informed by one of the conspirators ; and as 
they were kept in separate rooms, and could not speak to 
each other, I managed to get out of them the real truth. 
They owned that the principal authors of the conspiracy 
were Guatemucin and Tetepanguecal, and that the others 
knew also of the plot, but had refused to enter into it. 

Having thus ascertained that the two above-mentioned 
lords were the most guilty in this affair, I sentenced them 
to be hung, and they were immediately executed. The 
others I set at liberty, considering that their only crime con- 
sisted in having listened to their proposals, although this 
circumstance alone was in my opinion sufficient for them to 
deserve death. Their case, however, remains open, in order 



42 THE FIFTH LETTER 

that if ever they relapse they may be punished accordingly ; 
although it is not likely they will, because so frightened 
were they at the summary manner in which I treated the 
whole affair, and so puzzled to know how I came to discover 
the plot — they having never to this day guessed who was 
my informant — that they firmly believe me in possession of 
some wonderful art, by means of which I obtain the know- 
ledge of hidden things. Having observed that in order to 
find out my way in these untrodden regions I from time to 
time refer to a sea map and needle, as was the case at Qago- 
tespan, they imagined that by help of that map and needle 
I came to discover their secret. So convinced are they of 
this, that whenever they wished to testify their good will 
they came to me begging I would consult the mirror and the 
needle, in order to see whether their intentions were as good 
as they professed, sure as they all were that through that 
instrument I acquired the knowledge of the most hidden 
and secret things. This conviction of theirs I found so 
useful for the future, that I never tried to disabuse them, 
but on the contrary, strengthened their belief that the sea- 
needle and map were the means I had of finding out all 
things. 

This province of Aculan is very large and thickly popu- 
lated. It has many villages, some of which were visited by 
my Spaniards. It abounds in honey and food of various 
kinds. There are in it many merchants, who trade in different 
parts, and are rich in slaves and other articles of com- 
merce. Aculan is entirely surrounded by lagoons, every 
one of which communicates with the bay and port called 
Los Terminos, through which they carry on by water 
a considerable trade with Xiculango 1 and Tabasco. It is 
through those lagoons that they are supposed to reach that 
other sea, the country called Yucatan being thus made a 

1 Some of the copies have Cicalcingo, which seems to me an erroneous 
reading. 



OF HERNAN COHTES. 43 

complete island. But this is only a report ; I will endeavour 
to ascertain the truth of it, so as to inform your Majesty 
at full length. 

As far as I could learn, there is no other lord in the 
whole province of Aculan but this Apospolon, of whom I 
have already told your Majesty. He is the richest of the 
traders of this country, and has more ships at sea. He 
carries on his commerce far off, and at Nito, a town of 
which I will say more hereafter, and where I met some of 
the Spaniards belonging to Gil Gonzales de Avila's suit, 
there is a whole suburb filled with his agents, and among 
them one of his own brothers, who manages the whole con- 
cern. The chief articles of trade in those provinces consist 
of cacao, cotton-cloth, colours for dyeing, and a species of 
tint, with which they besmear their bodies all over to guard 
against heat and cold ; candlewood, to light themselves ; 
aromatic resin, extracted from the pine tree, for the incen- 
sing of their idols ; slaves ; and lastly, certain red beads, 
which differ from coral, and are held in great estimation 
by the natives, who ornament their persons with them 
in their festivals and carousals. They also deal in gold, 
though in small quantities, and mixed either with copper or 
with other metals. 

To this Apospolon, as well as to other worthy natives of 
this province, who came to visit me, I failed not to open my 
mind about their idols, informing them as I had done before 
with others, of what they were to believe in order to ensure 
the future salvation of their souls, and how they were to 
conduct themselves in the service of your Majesty. They 
listened to me with attention, seemed gratified at what I 
told them, and burned many of their idols in my very 
presence, declaring that they would no longer worship 
them, but would obey any commands I might be pleased to 
give them in your Majesty's name. Upon which I took leave 
of them, and continued my journey, as aforesaid. 



44 THE FIFTH LETTER 

Three days before my departure from the province of 
Aculan, I sent forward four Spaniards, with two guides 
that Apospolon procured me, that they might look out for 
a road to the neighbouring province of Macatlan — which in 
the language of the natives is called Quiniacho. 1 I had been 
told by the said Apospolon that on my way thither I should 
have - to cross a great desert, and pass four nights in the midst 
of forests, and therefore I gave the men instructions, and 
told them to inspect the ground well, and report to me 
whether there would be any morasses or rivers to pass. 
From fear, however, of such hardships and hunger as we 
had to go through at Cagoatespan, I gave orders that all 
my people should take food for six days. This being done, 
and my people amply supplied w r ith the necessaries of 
life — for they had in that place abundance of every thing — 
I started on my journey. Five leagues beyond a certain 
lagoon, which we crossed, I met the four Spaniards, who, 
guided by the two natives, had gone in search of a road. 
They told me there was a very good one, although completely 
girded by forests ; that it was level, and without any rivers 
or morasses to cross. They further added that they had 
come up to a certain spot in the said province of Macatlan, 
whence they had seen plantations and even some of the 
natives, and they came back unnoticed by them. 

I was delighted to hear this news, and ordered six of my 
men on foot to go forwards with" some of our Indian friends, 
and keep always one league in advance of those who w T ere 
opening the road, in order that if they came upon any 
travellers or stray Indians they might seize and stop them, 
enter the province without being observed, and thus prevent 
the inhabitants from deserting their dwellings and setting 
fire to their villages, as others before them had done. That 
very day, close to a water lake, my people seized two Indians, 
who professed to be natives of the province of Aculan, and 
1 Elsewhere Quiacho and even Quiatlco. 



OF HKRXAN CORTES. 45 

said they were coming from that of Macatlan, where they 
had lately been bartering salt for cotton clothing. This 
account of their persons seemed probable enough, for they 
were laden with that article. Being brought to my presence, 
and asked whether in the province whence they came there 
was any rumour about us, they answered there was not, and 
that the inhabitants were in a perfect state of tranquillity. I 
then told them that they must needs return thither with me, 
but not to be frightened at it, for they would not lose any 
thing of what they carried, but on the contrary, I would 
give them of what I had with me ; and, moreover, upon our 
arrival at the province of Macatlan they would be allowed to 
go away ; that I was a great friend of all the natives of 
Aculan, because they and their lord had been very kind to 
me. The men did with perfect goodwill what I asked from 
them, and guided us by another road, that taken by my 
Spaniards leading only to certain farms or plantations, 
whereas theirs brought us to the very centre of their villages. 
The night of that day was passed in the forest. The day 
after the Spaniards, who went forwards as pioneers, met 
four Indians, natives of Macatlan, with their bows and 
arrows, who were upon the road as sentries or scouts. On 
the approach of our people, the Indians shot their arrows, 
and wounded one of our men ; but they fled and were hotly 
pursued. Owing, however, to the thickness of the forest, 
our people could only secure one of the fugitives, whom 
they placed in the hands of three of our Indians, whilst the 
Spaniards followed the pursuit, thinking there were more 
enemies in the wood. But no sooner were the Spaniards 
out of sight, than some of the fugitives, who, as it afterwards 
appeared, lay hidden in the bushes, came back to the spot, 
and, falling upon our three Indian friends, fought with 
them and released the prisoner. Ashamed at their defeat, 
the Indians followed their enemies across the forest, and 
having overtaken them, fought with them, and wounded one 



46 THE FIFTH LETTER 

in the arm by a great sword-cut, taking him prisoner; the 
others took to flight, especially as they heard some of our 
people approach. 

I asked that prisoner whether his countrymen knew of 
my coming, and he answered they did not; I then inquired 
for what purpose he and his companions had been watching. 
His answer was that such was their habit, being then at 
war with some of their neighbours, and that the lord of the 
land, providing for the security of his people, who were 
then occupied in their field labours, had watch-guards 
stationed on the different roads to prevent any surprise. 
Having then ascertained from him that the first village of 
that province was close by, I made all possible haste in 
order to arrive there before any of his companions, the fugi- 
tive Indians, should give the alarm ; and I ordered those of 
my people who went in front to halt as soon as they came 
in sight of the plantations, to hide themselves in the forest, 
and wait until my arrival. "When I came to the appointed 
place it was already late in the day. I hastened on my 
march, thinking we might reach the village that very night; 
but perceiving that the Indians who carried our luggage 
and provisions were somewhat spread and scattered, I ordered 
a captain with twenty horsemen to remain at -the plantations, 
collect the carriers as they came on, and pass the night 
there, after which all together were to follow me. For my 
own part, I took a narrow path through the forest : it was 
level and straight enough, though so shut up by trees on 
either side that I could hardly cut my way through it. I 
walked on foot and led my horse, all my people behind me 
doing the same. In this manner we marched until night 
came on, when we were stopped by a morass, which could 
not be traversed without being previously fitted for the pas- 
sage of the men. Seeing this, I gave orders, which were 
quickly transmitted from one man to another, to return to a 
small hut which we had passed in the evening, and there we 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 47 

spent the night, although without water for ourselves or our 
horses. 

In the morning of the next day, having had the morass 
strewed with branches of trees and made fit for our passage, 
we cleared it, though with some difficulty, leading our 
horses by the hand. Three leagues beyond the spot where 
we had passed the night we perceived a village perched on 
a rock. Thinking that we had not been noticed, I approached 
it with great precaution, and found it so completely sur- 
rounded [by palisades] that we could not for a time find an 
entrance to it. At last we discovered one, and went in ; 
but found the village deserted, though full of provisions of 
every sort, such as maize, fowls, honey, beans, and other 
produce of the land; for as the inhabitants of the place were 
taken by surprise, they had no time to remove any of their 
stores, which were abundant, owing to their village being 
a frontier one. 

The village is situated, as I said before, upon a high 
rock ; it has a great lake on one side, and on the other 
a deep stream that throws itself into the lake. It has bui 
one accessible entrance, and is surrounded by a deep moat, 
behind which is a wooden palisade reaching as high as 
a man's breast, and behind this palisade a kind of breast- 
work made of thick boards, ten feet 1 high, with its embra- 
sures all along to shoot out arrows, and watchtowers rising 
seven or eight feet more above the said wall, which was also 
flanked by round towers having large stones on the top to 
throw on the assailants. All the houses in the village were 
strengthened in a like manner and loopholed, and the streets 
barricaded in the most scientific and effective manner possible 
considering their mode of warfare and the weapons they u^e. 

From this place I dispatched some of my people in various 

1 The original here has de hasta dos estados de altura. Estado being 
sometimes used in old Spanish to designate a man's height, I have 
calculated it at five feet. 



48 THE FIFTH LETTER 

directions in search of natives whom I might interrogate. 
They succeeded in bringing me two or three, whom I sent, 
accompanied by one of those Indian pedlars from Aculan, in 
search of the lord of the place. They were to tell him, in 
my name, not to be frightened at my coming, but to return 
to his village, for I did not come to do him or his people 
any harm, but on the contrary to help him, if necessary, in 
his wars against his neighbours, so as to leave his country 
in a state of perfect security. 

Two days after this the messengers came back, bringing 
with them an uncle of the lord of the land, who was then 
governing in his nephew's name, he being too young for the 
task. Fear, it was alleged, had prevented his coming. I spoke 
to the uncle, and restored his confidence, upon which he 
conducted me to another village of the same province, called 
Tiax, 1 about seven leagues further on. This was much 
larger than the former, and equally well fortified, though 
not so strong, being situated on a plain. It had, like the 
other village, strong pallisades, a deep moat, and watch towers. 
Each of the three suburbs or quarters into which it was 
divided had a strong wall, and the whole was encircled by 
an outer one, stronger than the rest. 

I had sent on to this village two companies of horse 
and another one of foot, each under a captain ; but upon 
arrival they found the place entirely deserted, though full 
of provisions. My men, however, contrived to secure 
close by seven or eight of the natives, some of whom they 
afterwards set at liberty, that they might .go and speak to 
their chief, and quiet the people. In this they succeeded so 
well, that before my arrival at the place its chief had 
already sent his messengers with some provision and cotton 
clothing as a present. During our stay in that town the 
natives again returned, bringing food and peaceably con- 
versing with us ; but this time they were not sent only by 
1 Also written at times Tiar, Tiacle, and even Tiac. 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 49 

that chief, but by five or six more in the immediate neigh- 
bourhood, who were all independent of each other. Every 
one of these chiefs offered himself as the vassal of your 
Majesty, and promised to be our friend, though I never could 
persuade them to come and see me. As I had not much 
time to spare, I sent each of them a verbal message, purport- 
ing that I accepted their vassalage in your Majesty's name, 
and begging them to procure me guides to prosecute my 
journey, which they did of very good will, giving me one 
who not only was well acquainted with the countries I had 
to traverse, but had even visited them, and seen the very 
Spaniards in search of whom I came. I therefore, took my 
departure from Tiac, and passed the night at another village, 
called Yasuncabil, 1 which is the last of that province. I 
.found it deserted, and surrounded by pallisades, as were the 
other two. Its chief had a most beautiful residence, 
though -it s was built entirely of straw. We there provided 
ourselves with evefy thing necessary for our journey, our 
guide having told us that we should find a desert of five 
leagues before we reached the province of Taiza, 2 which we 
had to traver&C ; and so it proved to be in reality. 

'T-Tere, in the province of Macatlan, or Quiniacho, as it is 
otherwise called, I dismissed the two pedlars I had stopped 
on the road, as well as the guides from Aculan, giving to 
each of them some small trifles, besides other things which 
they were to present in my name to their respective lords, 
upon which they all went away very happy and contented. 
The chief of the first village in this province, who had 
accompanied me, I also dismissed at this spot, allowing him 
to take away with him some of his women who had been 



1 The Vienna copy Iiasmicabil, and even Tiastnicabil. Tiac is again 
written here Tiacle. 

2 Elsewhere Taica, Tahica, and even Yaiza; but perhaps Itza is 
meant, which really was the name of that province. 



50 THE FIFTH LETTER 

captured by my men in the forest. I also gave him a small 
present, at which he seemed very much pleased. 

Once out of the province of Macatlan, I directed my 
steps towards that of Taiza. I slept four nights on the 
road, all that country being inhabited. My way was over 
rocky mountains of considerable height ; and I had to tra- 
verse a very dangerous pass, which being formed of very 
fine alabaster, I named Puerto del Alabastro. 

On the fifth day of our march, the pioneers, who went 
in front with the guide, came to a great lake, looking like 
an arm of the sea. So large and deep it is, that although its 
waters are sweet, I am of opinion that it really forms part 
of the ocean. 1 There was on it a small island, and in the 
island a village, which the guide said was the chief place in 
the province of Taiza, and that if we wished to go there, 
we could only do it in canoes. Hearing this, the Spaniards 
remained on the bank of the lake keeping watch, whilst 
one of them came back to me and reported ; upon which I 
ordered my men to halt, and went thither on foot that I 
might examine the lake and its situation. Upon my arrival 
on the spot, I found that my pioneers had succeeded in 
securing one Indian belonging to that village on the island, 
who had come on shore in a very small boat, for the purpose 

1 I need scarcely observe that Cortes was wrong in supposing that 
this lake communicated with the sea. It is, however, very large, the 
section of it where the town of Flores now stands measuring three 
leagues in length by one half in breadth, whereas the larger portion is 
twelve leagues long. It was called by the natives Nohuken, a word 
meaning great drinker, to express, no doubt, the great mass of water 
accumulated in its basin. Ancient Spanish chroniclers call it indifferently 
laguna de Peten, de Lacandones, or de el ltza, which last denomination 
seems the most acceptable, as conveying the notion of the primitive in- 
habitants. About the beginning of the fifteenth century the dynasty 
reigning over Yucatan was overthrown, its capital city, Mayapan, was 
destroyed, and the Itzaes coming from the south took possession of the 
territories adjoining the lake. See Cogolludo, Historia de Chiapa, 
Yucatan, etc. 



OF HERN AN CORTES. 51 

of reconnoitring. He was armed, and though surprised 
by my people, he would have escaped had not a dog of 
ours overtaken and seized him before he threw himself 
into the water. 

From this Indian I learned that his countrymen knew 
nothing about my arrival. I asked him whether there was 
any means of reaching the village on the island, and he 
answered there was none ; but that not far from the spot 
there was a narrow arm of that lake, on the other side of 
which we should find some plantations and houses, and that 
if we managed to arrive there without being seen we were 
sure to have canoes. Hearing this, I sent order to my people 
to advance, and taking ten or twelve archers with me, I 
followed on foot the road which that Indian had pointed out 
to me. We had to cross a rather long morass, intersected by 
pools, in which the water reached to our waists and some- 
times higher up. In this manner we came to the plantations, 
but as the road was bad, and we could not always conceal 
our march, we were seen from a distance. On our arrival 
the inhabitants of the place were taking hastily to their 
canoes in order to escape by the lake. I marched on the 
banks for about two-thirds of a league, across plantations 
and by houses, but everywhere we had been perceived, 
and the inhabitants were paddling ofT in their canoes. 
As it was late in the day, and I considered it a useless 
task to follow the fugitives, I ordered my people to halt 
and encamp at those plantations, taking such military 
precautions as were in my power ; having been told by the 
guide from Magadan that the people about this lake were 
the most numerous and warlike of all their neighbours, 
and much dreaded in consequence. My guide then pro- 
posed to take that little canoe in which the Indian had 
come, and make for the small island in the lake, which could 
be seen at a distance of about two leagues. He was well 



52 THE FIFTH LETTER 

acquainted with the chief, whose name was Canec, 1 and he 
would speak- to him, and tell him what my intentions were, 
and the object of my coming to his country, since he knew 
them well, having accompanied me part of the way. He 
had no doubt the chief would listen to his words and believe 
in them, and allow his fears to be calmed, for he knew him 
intimately, having several times visited the village on the 
island, and stayed at his house. 

This proposition of the guide seemed to me a very 
excellent one. I accepted his offer, gave him the canoe and 
the Indian who had come from the island, and told him 
that if he succeeded in his undertaking I would reward 
him to his heart's content. He went away, and about 
midnight returned to me, bringing with him two worthy 
citizens of that village, who came in the chief's name to 
ascertain the truth of the guide's report, and inquire 
what I wanted of him. I received them well, gave them 
some of the trifles I had with me, and informed them that 
my arrival in those regions was by your Majesty's express 
commands, and for the mere purpose of gaining a knowledge 
of the country and its inhabitants, and communicating with 
the lords and chiefs of the land on matters touching the 
royal service and their own welfare. They were to invite 
the chief to come and see me without fear ; and if he hesi- 
tated, to propose that one of my Spaniards should go and 
remain on the island as an hostage all the time the chief 
was with me. With this message they went back accom- 
panied by the guide and by one of the Spaniards. The day 
after the chief himself arrived, escorted by about thirty men 
in five or six canoes, and bringing with him the Spaniard 
I had given him as a hostage. He seemed much pleased 

1 The same individual called Kanec by Villagutierre and Cogolludo. 
But Cortes here, as well as the two mentioned writers, mistook the title 
of the chief for his name, canec in the dialect of the Itzaes meaning the 
same thing as cacique among the Mexicans. 



OF HERN AN CORTES. 53 

at seeing me, and I received him with a great show of 
affeetion. 

It happened that when this chief and his people presented 
themselves in our camp it was the hour of mass. I ordered 
one to be chaunted with great solemnity, and with the usual 
accompaniment of clarions and sackbuts. He heard it with 
great composure, and watched attentively all the ceremonies 
of divine service. The mass over, the Franciscan friars I 
had with me came on, and one of them preached a sermon, 
which being translated by the interpreter, could very well 
be understood by the chief and his people, wherein he in- 
formed them of all things touching our faith, and gave them 
to understand, by a series of arguments, how there was but 
one only God, and how all those who followed their sect 
were sure to be damned. The chief shewed much satisfac- 
tion at what he heard, declaring that his wish was immedi- 
ately to destroy all his idols, and to believe in that God of 
whom we had spoken to him ; but that he wanted to be told 
in what way he was to honour and worship him. That if I 
chose to accompany him to his village, I would soon have 
occasion to see how he ordered all the idols to be burnt in 
my presence; and he moreover begged me to leave him one 
of those crosses, which I was in the habit of planting 
wherever I went. 

The sermon and conference over, I again spoke to the 
chief, and told him about your Majesty's greatness, and how 
he and all living creatures were the natural subjects and 
vassals of your Imperial Highness, and bound to your service. 
That to those who did so, your Majesty granted all manner 
of favours, which I, in the royal name, had already dis- 
pensed, wherever I had been, to all those who had willingly 
offered to be the vassals of your Majesty, and placed them- 
selves under your Imperial rule. The same, or greater, I 
promised to him if he followed their example. 

His answer was that he never to that moment had 



54 THE FIFTH LETTER 

acknowledged a superior, nor had he been told that there 
was one to obey. True it was that about five or six 
years before some of the people of Tabasco, coming through 
his country, had informed him how a certain captain, 
followed by men of our nation, had come among them, and 
had vanquished them in three' pitched battles. The same 
people had likewise told him that they were to become 
henceforwards the vassals of a great lord, and many other 
things similar to those which I was now telling him. He, 
therefore, wished to know whether the supreme lord to 
whom I was now referring was the same to whom the men 
of Tabasco had alluded. 

I answered him that I was the captain who had passed 
through Tabasco, and that it was I who hnd fought with 
them, That if they wished to know whether I told them the 
truth or not, they had only to ask that interpreter who was 
then by my side, an Indian woman, native of that country, 
whose name, after christening, was Marina. She had been 
presented to me with twenty other girls by the people of 
Tabasco, and had accompanied me ever since. This woman, 
therefore, spoke to the chief, and told him it was perfectly 
true that I had conquered Mexico, and she enumerated one 
by one all the lands and provinces that are at present sub- 
jected and obedient to your Majesty's imperial rule. 

This being heard by the chief, he shewed his contentment 
at it, and said he was ready to become at once the subject and 
vassal of your Majesty, and that he considered himself for- 
tunate to obey so powerful a prince as I told him your 
Highness was. After this he sent for fowls and honey, and 
some gold, and certain beads made of red shells, which they 
very much prize, and made me a present of all that. I, in 
return, gave him of the things I carried with me, at which 
he shewed his contentment, and he afterwards dined with 
me, being very much pleased at the reception I gave him. 

The dinner being over, I informed him how I was travel- 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 55 

ling in search of certain Spaniards who were on the sea 
coast, because they formed part of my army, and had been 
sent by me to those distant parts ; it was a very long time 
since I had news of them, and for that reason I was going 
in search of them, and therefore begged him to give me 
such information as he might possess respecting them. The 
chief said in answer that he knew a great deal about my 
countrymen, because not far from the spot where they were 
settled, he had certain vassals of his, who took care of a 
plantation of chocolate trees, the country being very favour- 
able to their growth. From these, as well as from numerous 
traders, who frequently went to and fro, he continually re- 
ceived news of them ; he would procure me guides who 
knew the country well, and would conduct me and my men 
to the very residence of the Spaniards. The road thither 
however was a bad one, leading through a rough and 
mountainous country, full of rocks and precipices, so that if 
I could go by sea it would be much better for me. I told 
him that, followed as I was by such numbers, and with so 
many horses and such heavy luggage I could never find 
canoes enough to go by water, and therefore was compelled, 
as he saw, to travel by land. I asked him, however, to give 
me the means of crossing that lake ; upon which he said to 
me that about three leagues from the spot where we then 
were the water of the lake became suddenly very shallow, 
and dried up, and that by coasting it I could return to the 
road opposite his village ; but he begged and hoped, that 
since my people were going round the lake, I, at least, 
should accompany him in his canoe and visit his village 
and house, where I might witness the burning of the idols, 
and order a cross to be made for him. To be agreeable to 
that chief, though against the advice of my own people, I 
accepted his offer, and having embarked with about twenty 
of my suite — most of them archers — accompanied him to his 



55 THE FIFTH LETTER 

village, 1 where I spent the rest of that clay in pleasure. 
"When night came on I took leave of the chief, and under the 
guidance of a native he gave me, entered the canoes, and 
landed at a spot on the shore where I found already most of 
my people encamped, and where we passed the night. 

At this village, or rather at the plantations that were close 
to the lake, I was obliged to leave one of my horses, owing 
to his having got a splinter in his foot. The chief promised 
to take care of the animal and cure him, but I do not know 
that he will succeed, or what he will do with him. 2 

On the following day, after collecting together the people, 
I started, preceded by the guides, and about one half a 
league's distance from the spot whereat we had encamped, 
came up to a small plain and huts, and thence to a hill of 

1 This chief, or canec, inhabited an island called Tayasal. When, in 
1697, the Spaniards under Don Martin de Ursua took definitive posses- 
sion of that country — all previous attempts having failed — they changed 
its name into Nuestra Senora de los Remedios y San Pablo; but this 
singular denomination has since become obsolete, and it is now generally 
called Remedios- Peten. This may perhaps be a proper place to observe 
that the word peten means a lake, and the whole of that country was in 
old times, and I believe is still now, known as Peten-Itza. The town, 
where the chief himself resided, must have been very large, since it 
contained twenty-one adoratorios or idol-houses. When the Spaniards 
conquered the island, they found it so strewed with places of worship 
and stone idols, that from seven in the morning to six in the evening 
they were occupied, without taking any rest, in breaking and destroying 
them. 

2 About this horse of Cortes a very curious anecdote is told by Villa- 
gutierre. He says that when the Franciscan friars who accompanied 
Ursua's expedition in 1697 entered the island, and were looking for 
a convenient spot to make of it a place of worship, they came upon 
a large temple, and found inside the image of a horse tolerably well 
executed in freestone. Having made inquiries about it, they were told 
that the natives, out of compliment to Cortes, had raised the animal to 
the rank of one of their gods, under the name of Tziminchak, after he 
had died in consequence of the excessive care they took of him, and the 
respect they had for Cortes ; for it would appear that instead of giving 
him proper forage, they had presented him with flowers and birds, which 
of course the poor beast could not eat, and thereby was starved to death. 



OF HERXAN CORTES. 



small elevation ; after which, at a distance of one league and 
a half, we arrived again at some beautiful plains, covered 
with grass, whence I sent forward some horse and foot, with 
orders to stop and secure any natives they might find on 
their way, our guides having told us that we should arrive 
that very night at a village. Those plains we found to 
abound in deer, and we hunted all that day on horseback, 
and speared eighteen of them, though owing to the great 
heat and to our horses being out of condition, our way having 
hitherto been through mountainous or swampy districts, two 
of them died from the exertion, and several more were in 
great danger. 

The hunting over, we proceeded on our road, and shortly 
after, met some of our outrunners, who were waiting for us. 
They had overcome and seized four Indian hunters, who had 
just killed a lion and some iguanas — a species of large lizard 
abounding in those islands. Having asked them whether at 
their village they had any notion about me, they answered 
they had not, and then pointed out to me the habitations or 
farms whence they came, which were seen in the distance, 
about one league and a half from the place where we then 
stood. Thither I went in all haste, thinking I might arrive 
without any difficulty, and before the inhabitants saw me ; 
but when I thought I was about to enter the village, and 
actually saw the people moving in it, we came upon a laro-e 
lagoon, which seemed to me too deep to be crossed, and I 
therefore ordered my people to halt. As the village was not 
far off, I began to make signs and call the inhabitants to me, 
when two Indians in a canoe, with about one dozen fowls, 
came very close to the place where I stood on horseback, 
with the water to the girths ; but although I remained con- 
versing with them a good while, and trying to persuade 
them to approach the shore, they never would, through fear, 
and Began even to retreat towards their village. Seeing 
which, one of the Spaniards who was on horseback by my 



58 THE FIFTH LETTER 

side spurred his steed through the waters, and swam after 
them. The Indians were so frightened at the horse that they 
jumped into the lagoon, and abandoned their canoe, upon 
which some of my men, who were good swimmers, overtook 
them, and brought them prisoners to the shore. 

But whilst I was thus engaged the people had completely 
deserted the village. I asked those Indians which way our 
road was, and they pointed out to me a spot where by a cir- 
cuitous march of about one league we should find convenient 
passage, the lagoon being at that place almost dry. We fol- 
lowed their directions, and arrived the same night at the 
village, and slept in it. 

The name of this place is Checan ; it is eighteen leagues 
distant from the spot whence we started, and is under a 
chief named Amohan. 2 I stayed there four days, collecting 
provisions for six more, having been told by the guides that 
I should have to cross a desert of that length. I had 
another reason for so long a delay. I wished to wait for 
the chief of the village, for whom I had sent, he being absent 
with the rest of the inhabitants when I entered the place. 
But although I tried all means in my power to calm his fears, 
and sent him several messages by those Indians I had taken, 
neither he nor they ever came back. 

Having, therefore, collected the most provision I could, I 
started on my journey, and marched the first day through a 
level and fine looking country, without wood, except now and 
then a little, and at the end of six leagues we came to the foot of 
a great mountain ridge, where, and close to a river, we found 
a large house and two or three smaller ones, all surrounded 
by maize plantations. The house, the guides told me, be- 
longed to Amohan, the lord of Checan, who kept it as an inn 

1 Sometimes written Chegan. 

- The name of this chief is differently written in the various manu- 
scripts, Almohan, Amochan, and Amohan, which last reading I have 
adopted. 



OF HERN AN CORTES. 



59 



for the numerous traders passing that way. I stayed there 
one day besides that of my arrival, first because it happened 
to be a festival of the church, and secondly because I 
wished to give time to the pioneers, who went in front open- 
ing the road. In that river near Checan we had very excel- 
lent fishing, for we cut off and took a large quantity of shad, 
not one of those that entered the sluice having escaped. 

The day after this, we marched seven leagues, through a 
rough and mountainous country, and passed the night on 
the banks of a large river. On the next, after about three 
leagues of very bad road, we came to a beautiful plain, 
without wood, except a few pine trees. In these plains, 
which extended for two leagues, we killed seven deer, and 
we dined on the banks of a very fresh stream that traverses 
them. After dinner we began to ascend a mountain pass, 
which though of no great elevation, was exceedingly steep 
and rough ; so much so, that although we led our horses by 
the hand, we had still considerable difficulty in the ascent. 
In coming down we found about half a league of level 
country, after which there was another mountain pass, which 
took us fully two hours and a half to go up and down. So 
bad and rough it was, that all the horses lost their shoes 
in it. 

We passed that night at the bottom of the pass on the 
other side of the mountain, close to a small stream, where 
we remained all next day, nearly till the hour of vespers, 
attending to the shoeing of our horses ; for although there 
were in my small army two farriers, and about ten more 
men who helped in nail rivetting, the operation could not 
be finished in one day. I went on to sleep three leagues 
further, and left many of my men behind to attend to the 
horses and wait for the Indian carriers, who, owing to the 
bad roads, and to the heavy rains that fell, had necessarily 
remained behind. 

The day after, having heard from the guides that close 



60 THE FIFTH LETTER 

upon my path there was a farm called Asuncapin 1 belonging 
to the lord of Taiza, and that I could very well arrive early 
in the evening, and pass the night there, I again took to 
the road, and after marching four or five leagues more, 
came to the said farm, which we found deserted. At this 
place I stayed two days, for the purpose of collecting toge- 
ther the luggage carriers, and making provision ; which 
being done, I set on, and went to sleep at another farm- 
house, called Taxuitel, 2 distant about five leagues from the 
former, and belonging also to Amohan, the lord of Checan. 
It was well-planted with chocolate trees and maize, though 
the latter fruit was but in small quantity, and too green to 
be reaped. 

I was here informed by the guides and by the manager of 
the farm, whom we succeeded in taking prisoner, as well as 
his wife and a son of his, that we should soon have to cross 
a chain of .high, and rocky mountains, where there was 
no habitation of any kind ; and that after this we should 
arrive at other farms, belonging to Canec, 3 the lord of Taiza, 
and bearing the name of. Tenciz. We .did not stay long at this 
place, starting the day after our arrival. After traversing six 4 
leagues of level country we began to ascend the mountain 
pass, which is one of the most wonderful things in the world 
to behold ; for were I to attempt its description, and picture 
to your Majesty its roughness, as well as the difficulties of 
every kind we had to surmount, I should utterly fail in the 
undertaking. I can, however, assure your Majesty that 
neither I nor those who are more' eloquent could find words 
to give a proper idea of it ; even if we did, we could never 

1 Elsewhere Auecapin and k?uncapin. One of the copies reads Hesu- 
capin. 

2 Also written Taxuytel, Japuitel and Japitel, these latter readings 
being occasioned by the similarity of the letters T and J as they were 
written at the time. 

3 See above, p. 52. 

* In another copy " two." 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 61 

be understood except by those who saw it with their own 
eyes, and experienced the fatigues and perils of the ascent. 
It will be sufficient to inform your Majesty that we were 
twelve days in making the eight leagues across the pass, 
and that we lost on this occasion no less than sixty-eight of 
our horses, that either fell down precipices or were ham- 
strung and disabled by their fall. The rest arrived so fatigued 
and hurt that scarcely one was of service to us, and three 
months passed before any of them were fit for riding. 1 All 
the time we were ascending this awful pass it never ceased 
raining day and night, and yet the mountains we had to cross 
were so shaped, having no crevices wherein the rain might 
stop, that we had no water to drink, and were greatly tor- 
mented by thirst, most of our horses perishing through it. 
Indeed, had it not been for some which we were /able to 
collect in copper kettles and other vessels, whilst encamping 
at night in huts made for that purpose, no. man or horse 
could have escaped alive. 

Whilst crossing this mountain pass, a nephew of mine fell 
down and broke his. leg in two or three places ;- and after this 
misfortune— which all of us deplored— we had the greatest 
difficulty to carry him over to the other side in the state in 
which he was. 

But our dangers were not yet over. About one league 
before we came to the farms of Tenciz, 2 which, as I said be- 
fore, are on the other side of these mountains, we were 
stopped by a large river, the waters of which were increased 
and swollen beyond measure by the late rains, so that it 
was impossible for us to cross it. The Spaniards sent in 
advance to explore, finding no passage, had gone up the 

1 Bernal Diaz, who accompanied Cortes in this expedition, confirms 
the statement, and gives a graphic account of the dangers attending the 
ascent. 

2 The same place mentioned at p. GO, though here it is written Teneis, 
and elsewhere Teueas. 



62 THE FIFTH LETTER 

stream and discovered the most wonderful ford that ever 
had been seen or heard of; for the river at that particular 
spot spreads for upwards of two-thirds of a league, owing 
to certain large rocks which impede its course. Between 
these rocks natural channels are formed, through which the 
water runs with great rapidity and force, there being no 
other possible outlet for the stream. By means of these 
rocks, which fortunately lay close enough to each other, we 
managed to pass that dangerous river, cutting down large 
trees, which we laid across, and holding fast by bejucos or 
pliable reeds thrown from one rock to another. Yet this 
mode of crossing was so dangerous that had one of us be- 
come giddy or lost his foot he must inevitably have perished. 
There were in the river more than twenty of these narrow 
channels, so that it took us two whole days to cross it. The 
horses swam across at a place lower down the river, where 
the current was not so strong ; but although the distance to 
Tenciz was only one league, as I said before, they were 
nearly three days in doing it; indeed, most of them were so 
fatigued and broken down by their last march across the 
mountains, that my men were almost obliged to carry them 
on their shoulders, and even then they could not help them- 
selves. 

I arrived at Tenciz on the loth day of May 1 of 1525, the 
evening before Easter (Pascua de Resureccion), although 
most of my men — especially those who had horses to attend 
to — did not join me until three days after. I found on my 
arrival that the Spaniards whom I had sent forward had pre- 
ceded me by two days, and taken possession of two or three 
of the above mentioned habitations or farms, securing about 
twenty and odd Indians, who, unconscious of my presence 
in those parts, had been taken unawares. Having asked 

1 The month is omitted, a quince dias del ann : etc.; but Easter 
having fallen for that year on the 1 Cth of April, I have filled up the 
blank accordingly. 



OF HERNAN CORTES. ()3 

them whether they had any provisions, they answered me 
that they had none, nor could they be procured for several 
leagues round, which news put us in the greatest possible 
consternation, and increased our wants beyond measure, 
since for the last ten days we had fed exclusively on cores of 
palm trees and palmettos, and these in small numbers, for 
we were so weak that we had scarcely strength enough to 
cut them down. I was, however, informed by one of their 
chiefs that about one day's march up the river, which had 
again to be crossed at the same dangerous spot, there was a 
well populated district, called Tahuytal 1 where I would find 
abundance of maize, cacao and fowls, and that he was ready 
to furnish me with a guide. I immediately sent one of 
my captains in that direction, with thirty Spaniards dis- 
mounted, and upwards of one thousand Indians of those who 
composed my train, when the Almighty permitted that they 
should find the country full of people, and great quantities 
of maize, with which we were not a little restored ; although, 
the distance being great and the road very bad, the provi- 
sioning was not so regular as I might have wished. 

From these plantations I sent forward some of my cross- 
bowmen, accompanied by a guide of the country, with orders 
to explore the roads in the direction of a province called 
Acuculin, until they should come to a village which, accord- 
ing to my information, was ten leagues beyond the place 
where I was then encamped. The village was at a distance 
of six leagues from Acuculin, the chief town of the province 
of that name, and the lord of all that territory was Acahuil- 
guin. My Spaniards arrived there unnoticed, and having 
entered by surprise one of the habitations, found seven 
men and one woman, with whom they returned to me, 
saying that, although the road they had taken was bad 

1 All copies agree in writing the name of this place Tahuytal, but it 
should be observed that at p. 60 a village called Tatahuytel is also 
mentioned. 



64 THE FIFTH LETTER 

and rough, it had appeared to them easy and good in com- 
parison with those we had walked hitherto. From these 
Indian prisoners, whom I interrogated several times, I was 
able to collect information respecting the Spaniards in search 
of whom I was going. There was among them a native of 
the province of Aculan, who said he was a merchant, having 
his residence and carrying on his trade in the very town 
where my countrymen had established themselves ; that the 
name of that town was Nito, and that considerable trade was 
carried on in it by merchants of all parts of the country ; 
that the people of Aculan, to whom he himself belonged, in- 
habited a suburb of their own, and had as their chief a 
brother of Apospolon, the lord of Aculan; that the Chris- 
tians had come there one night and taken possession of the 
town, and robbed the inhabitants of every thing they pos- 
sessed, besides a good deal of valuable merchandise, for there 
were in the town traders from all parts. That in conse- 
quence of this inroad made by the Spaniards, which had 
occurred about a year before, the inhabitants had fled to 
other countries ; and that he and certain brother merchants 
from Aculan had applied to, and obtained from, Acahuilguin, 
the lord of Acuculin, permission to establish themselves on 
his domain, and he had given them a spot of land where 
they had settled, building that small village, whence they 
carried on their traffic, though owing to the inroad of the 
Spaniards, and to their having taken possession of their 
town, trade was then very slack, as there was no other 
channel for it but that one, and merchants did not venture 
through it from fear of the strangers. That before reach- 
ing the spot where the said Spaniards were settled, I would 
have to cross over an extensive gulf or arm of the sea, and 
many a mountain of the worst kind, during ten days' march, 
but that if it was my pleasure, he would be my guide, as 
he knew the road well, and had visited the place many a 
time. 



OF HERNAN COltTES. 65 

" Delighted to have such a guide, I accepted his services, 
and treated him well, causing the guides I had brought from 
Macatlan and Taica to speak to him, and tell him how well 
I had behaved towards them, and how I was the great friend 
of their common lord, Apospolon. This had the effect of in- 
creasing the merchant's confidence to such a degree that I 
determined to release him and his companions, and trust en- 
tirely to them, dismissing at the same time the guides I had 
with me, after having presented them with a few trifles for 
themselves and their chiefs, and thanked them for their good 
services. 

This being done, and the guides from Magadan and Taica 
having departed, very much satisfied at the manner in which 
they had been treated, I ordered that four men from Acucu- 
lin, and two men chosen from among the inhabitants of 
Tenciz, should go forward with a message of mine to the 
lord of Acuculin, and persuade him to wait for my arrival. 
They were followed by other Indians, who made the road 
practicable for me and my small army, and I myself fol- 
lowed in the rear with the remainder of the force, though 
the difficulty of getting provisions, and the want of rest, both 
for man and beast, made me tarry at the place two days 
longer. We began our march at last, leading most of our 
horses, until we came to a place where we passed the 
night; but what was our astonishment to find, at break 
of the following day, that the man who was to act as 
my guide and those who remained with him had disappeared 
during the night ! God only knows how affected I was by 
the mishap, finding myself without guides after having dis- 
missed those I had brought from Macatlan. I went on, how- 
ever, and spent the night on a mountain, five leagues dis- 
tant from that spot, where, owing to the roughness of the 
paths, another of my horses — the only one that still re- 
mained- .uninjured — was disabled by a fall, and at the 
moment I write has not yet entirely recovered. The next 



66 THE FIFTH LETTER 

day I marched six leagues, and crossed two rivers, one of them 
by aid of a tree, which had accidentally fallen across the 
stream, and was soon converted into a sort of bridge for our 
passage, the horses being made to swim across, though two 
mares were drowned in the attempt. The other river was 
crossed in canoes, the horses swimming. 

After this we arrived at a small village of about fifteen 
newly-built houses, where we passed the night. I there 
learned that the houses belonged to merchants of Aculan, 
originally from the town where the Christians had settled. At 
this village I stayed two days, in order to collect the men and 
luggage that remained behind ; and this being accomplished, 
I sent forward two troops of horse and a company of infantry 
in the direction of Acuculin, which they reached without 
accident. I soon received from them a written message, 
stating that they had found the place completely deserted, 
but that in a large house belonging to the lord of the land 
they had taken two men, who were waiting there by the 
command of their chief, to let him know of my arrival as 
soon as they saw me. The prisoners declared that their lord 
had been duly acquainted with my coming, through those 
messengers 1 had sent him from Tenciz ; that he would be glad 
to see me, and would repair to the spot as soon as he knew of 
my arrival. My men, moreover, informed me that they had 
sent one of the prisoners in search of the lord, and of some 
provisions, but had kept the other as hostage. They also 
advised me that they had found plenty of cacao, but no 
maize at all, although there was pretty good pasturage for 
horses. 

On my arrival at Acuculin, I immediately inquired whether 
the lord of the place was come, or the messenger returned, 
but I was told they had not come. I then addressed myself 
to the other Indian prisoner, and asked him how it was that 
his lord had not made his appearance. His answer was that 
he was very much astonished at it, but could give no other 



OF HKRNAN CORTES. 67 

reason for his absence except his waiting until T personally- 
had arrived on the spot. That, now that he was aware of 
my presence, he had no doubt he would come. I waited 
two days, and seeing he did not arrive, I again applied to 
the Indian, who said he knew well the spot where his lord 
was, and that if I sent thither some of my Spaniards, he 
would undertake to guide them, and deliver my message. 
To this I agreed, and gave him ten Spaniards, whom he 
conducted through a mountainous district to a place about 
five leagues distant, where they found some huts. Accord- 
ing to the report made by the Spaniards, the huts were 
empty ; but bore visible traces of having been recently in- 
habited. That very night the guide took flight, and the 
Spaniards returned to the camp without accomplishing the 
object for which I had sent them. 

Seeing myself without a guide of any sort — through 
which our difficulties were likely to be increased twofold — I 
determined to send people in all directions, Spaniards as 
well as Indians, to spread over that province, and see what 
information they could gather and bring me. They marched 
during eight consecutive days without meeting any living 
creature, save some women, who were of little use for our 
purpose, since they could neither shew us the road, nor tell 
us about the lord of the land or his people. One of them, 
however, said she knew of a village called Chianteco, about 
two leagues further on, where I might find people able to 
give me the information I required, and news of the Spaniards. 
In the village, she added, resided many merchants, who 
travelled to all parts with merchandise. I sent forthwith 
some of my men, and gave them that woman for a guide ; 
but although the village was two good days' march through 
a deserted country and bad roads, the natives had previous 
notice of my coming, and not one of them could be secured 
to act as guide on the occasion. 

Our Almighty Lord, however, permitted that whilst we 



G8 THE FIFTH LETTER 

were in a state of utmost despair, finding ourselves without 
a guide, and unable to use the compass, in the midst of 
mountains so intricate and rough that we had never seen 
the like of them before, with no other practicable road but 
the one on which we were, my men suddenly came upon a 
lad of about fifteen years of age, who, being interrogated, 
said he would guide us to certain habitations in Taniha, 1 
which was another of the provinces through which I recol- 
lected that I had to pass. As according to the lad's report the 
habitations of Taniha were only two days' journey from the 
place in which we then were, I hastily repaired thither, and 
arrived two days after on the spot, when the out-runners of 
my little host succeeded in securing an old Indian, who 
guided us to the very villages of Taniha, situated two days' 
march beyond. At this latter place four Indians were taken 
prisoners, who, being interrogated by me, gave very positive 
information about the Spaniards in search of whom I came, 
declaring that they had actually seen them, and that they 
were at a place called Nito, 2 distant only two days' march. 
I immediately recollected that such was the name of the 
place where, according to other reports, the Spaniards had 
settled, and about which those merchants of Aculan had 
spoken to me as being a town of great traffic and much re- 
sorted to. In this opinion I was confirmed by the testimony 
of two women, who said that at the time the Spaniards took 
possession of the town they were residing in it ; and as they 
came by night and took the inhabitants unawares, they, 
with other women, had been made prisoners and had 
fallen to the lot of certain Christians, whom they designated 
by their proper names, and in whose service they had re- 
mained for a length of time. 

I cannot describe to your Majesty my joy, and that of all 
my people, when the natives of Taniha gave us this news, 

1 Elsewhere Janiha. 

2 Now San Gil de Golfo Dulce. 



OF HEHKAN CORTES. 60 

seeing that we were so near the end of the perilous journey 
we had undertaken. For, although the last four days' 
march from Acuculin had been attended with great danger 
and fatigue, owing to the precipitous roads and awful moun- 
tain passes we had to cross, it was nothing in comparison of 
what we had suffered on the previous days. I have already 
informed your Majesty that the few horses we had left 
had been disabled by frequent falls among the rocks, and 
that a cousin of mine, Juan de Avalos by name, had fallen, 
he and his horse, down a precipice and broken his arm; 1 and 
had it not been for the plates of the steel armour he 
wore, which to a certain degree broke the violence of the 
fall, he might have been dashed to pieces against the rocks- 
I have told elsewhere how we extricated him from his posi- 
tion, and how we brought him up, and had to carry him over 
those mountains, and the many tribulations and wants we had 
to suffer during that perilous march, besides the extreme 
hunger to which we had been reduced in the last days of our 
adventurous peregrination. For, although there were still 
some pigs left of those I brought from Mexico, when we 
arrived at Taniha, neither I nor my men had tasted any 
bread for eight consecutive days, our provision being en- 
tirely exhausted, our only food consisting of palmettos boiled 
with the meat, and without salt, and the cores of the palm 
trees. Nor was food more abundant in these villages of 
Taniha; for being situated so close to the settlements of 
the Spaniards, most of the inhabitants fearing a visit from 
them, had fled elsewhere, although, had they known the 
miserable plight in which I afterwards found my country- 
men, they might have been secure against any inroad on their 
part. 

The happy news received at this place made us, however, 
forget our past tribulations, and gave us courage to endure 

1 See above, p. 61, where it is clearly stated that "he broke his leg- 
in two or three places." 



TO THE FIFTH LETTER 

present miseries and troubles, especially that of hunger, 
against which we had to fight more resolutely than ever, for 
even those cores of palm-trees without salt, which, as I said 
before, constituted our principal aliment, could not be pro- 
cured in sufficient quantity, for they had to be extracted 
from the stems of large and very high palm-trees, with 
such difficulty that two men had to work a whole day to 
procure that which they could eat in half-an-hour. 

I was further told by those Indians who had given me 
news of the Spaniards, that before arriving at Nito I should 
have to march for two days over a bad road, and that close to 
the place there was a very large river, that could not be 
passed except in canoes, being so wide and the current so 
strong that it was impossible for us to swim across. Hear- 
ing this, I sent in that direction fifteen of my Spaniards on 
foot, and guided by one of those Indians, with orders to ex- 
plore the roads and the river, and see if they could seize on 
one of those Spaniards, and ascertain from him to what party 
or division the settlers at Nito belonged, whether to those 
sent by me under Christoval de Olid and Francisco de las 
Casas, or to those who had followed the banners of Gil Gon- 
zalez de Avila. The men started on their exploring expe- 
dition, and arrived, under the Indian's guidance, at a spot 
on the banks of the river, where they took possession of a 
canoe belonging to certain merchants of the place. Having 
hidden themselves inside, they lay in ambush until they 
saw coming from the opposite bank of the river a canoe with 
four Spaniards in it, who were fishing. These they seized 
upon, without letting any of them escape, or the people of 
the neighbouring village being aware of the fact ; and, 
w r hen brought before me, I interrogated them, and they 
informed me that the settlers in the neighbourhood belonged 
to the division of Gil Gonzalez de Avila, and that they were 
all sick and half-starved. Hearing this, I sent in that very 
canoe belonging to those Spaniards two servants of mine, 



OF HKRNAN CORTES. 71 

who were to be the bearers of a letter to the people of the 
place, informing them of my arrival in those parts, and of 
my intention to cross that river at that spot, for which pur- 
pose I begged very much that they should send me all the 
canoes and boats they could dispose of. This being done, 
and the messengers departed, I moved on slowly towards 
the river side with the whole of my small army, which took 
me three whole days. Soon after my arrival, I was visited 
by one Diego jSieto, who said he was there under a sentence 
of exile. He procured me a boat and a canoe, in which I 
embarked with ten or twelve of my suite, crossing that very 
night the river, although with great danger of being drowned, 
for in the middle of the stream we were assailed by a gale 
of wind, and as the river is there very wide, and the crossing 
was effected very close to its mouth, we were on the point 
of being lost. God our Lord was pleased, however, to pre- 
serve us on the occasion, and we reached the port in safety. 
On the following day I fitted out another boat I found in the 
harbour, by means of which, and of other boats and canoes pro- 
cured in the vicinity, and which I caused to be well tied and 
secured two by two, I managed to have the whole of my 
small army, horses and luggage, on this side of the river, in 
which operation no less than five or six days were spent. 

The Spaniards whom I found settled in that place really 
belonged to the expedition commanded by Gil Gonzalez de 
Avila, and had been left there by him. They were eighty 
in number, sixty men and twenty women. They were in 
such a miserable plight that it really moved us to pity to see 
them, and had I not arrived at that moment amongst them, 
not one could have escaped ; for, besides being few in num- 
ber and having no weapons, they were all sick or wounded, 
and almost starved to death. All the provision which they 
brought from the island, and a little more that they had pro- 
cured in the town when they first took it from the natives, was 
long ago completely exhausted ; neither had they the means 



12 THE FIFTH LETTER 

of procuring others, or overrunning the adjacent country, for 
they were so situated in a sort of nook, without any issue by 
land, that they could hardly stir out except by water, as we 
afterwards found. I need scarcely say what their joy was 
when they saw us arrive, looking upon us as their saviours, 
and making all sorts of demonstrations. 

Considering the extreme want in which those people were, 
I immediately set about finding them means of support until 
I could procure vessels to send them back to the island, 
where they might supply their wants and recover their 
strength ; for, as I have said before, there were scarcely 
eight men and women in the whole lot able to people the 
land in case of their being left in that spot. I therefore 
selected among my own men those who were to go in search 
of provisions, and having fitted out two boats belonging to 
the Spaniards of that place, and five or six canoes, which 
I procured elsewhere, despatched them in various direc- 
tions by sea. The first of these exploring parties I sent to 
the mouth of a river called Yasa, about two leagues from the 
settlement of the Spaniards, and in the direction of the terri- 
tory through which I had come, having learned from the na- 
tives that the country around was well populated and full of 
provisions. My men arrived at the river, and ascended it for 
about six leagues, when they came upon some cultivated 
fields of tolerable dimension ; but the natives seeing them 
approach, took up in haste all the food they had in certain 
houses, and carrying away with them their sons and wives, 
and all their valuables, fled to the mountains and hid them- 
selves. It happened, however, that on the arrival of the 
Spaniards at those houses, the rain began to fall heavily, 
which obliged them to take shelter inside ; and as they 
were wet through they lighted fires, every one taking 
off his armour and most of them their clothes to have them 
dried. In this condition, and when they least thought, they 
were suddenly assailed by the natives, who wounded most 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 73 

of them in such a manner that they were obliged to take to 
their boats and return to me without bringing anything to 
eat. When I saw their wounds — some of which were con- 
siderable — I was exceedingly grieved, not only on account 
of the harm the men had sustained, but because they 
had done nothing towards alleviating our common troubles 
and wants, not to say anything of the confidence the Indians 
would take at seeing our discomfiture. 

Immediately after this I sent, in the same boats and canoes, 
and under the command of one of my captains, another 
party of men, more numerous than the first, and composed 
of Spaniards as well as Mexicans. And finding that the 
boats and canoes would not hold all, I made some of them 
cross over the great river on which the village stood, ordering 
them to follow the river-side, whilst the boats and canoes went 
close to the shore and in sight of it, in order to take them over 
other streams and bays, of which there seemed to be many. In 
this manner they came up to the mouth of that large river, 
and to the spot where, on a former occasion, my Spaniards 
had been surprised and wounded ; but without proceeding 
any further on their exploration, they returned to me with- 
out executing my orders or bringing any provision, although 
they took possession of one canoe and four Indians. Being 
asked why they came back in that way empty-handed, they 
answered that, owing to the great rains, the river had so 
swollen and the current was so strong, that they had not 
been able to ascend it for more than a league. That they had 
waited in vain during eight consecutive days for the waters 
of the river to go down, but having no provisions or 
fire with them, and indeed no other food but the fruit of 
wild trees, they had been obliged to return. These men 
were true in their report, for they were so worn out by 
fatigue, and so debilitated by hunger, that we had the greatest 
difficulty in restoring them to their former condition. 

Great was my concern when I saw these two attempts 



74 THE FIFTH LETTER 

fail ; and had it not been for a few pigs that we had still re- 
maining, and on which we went on feeding with the greatest 
parsimony, without either bread or salt, we might all have 
perished through hunger. In this emergency I sent for the 
four Indians that had been taken in the canoe, and asked 
them through the interpreter if they knew of any place in 
the neighbourhood where provisions might be procured, 
promising that if they guided me to it I would set them at 
liberty and make them presents of many things. One of 
them then answered that he was a merchant, and that the 
other three men were his servants ; that he often visited 
that coast with his ships, and that he knew of a certain gulf 
leading to a great river, where in winter time and when the 
sea was stormy all the merchants like himself navigated, and 
that on the banks of that river there were considerable vil- 
lages, inhabited by rich people and well stocked with all 
manner of provisions, and that he would conduct me or my 
people to certain habitations where I might find everything 
I could wish for. He further said that in order to prove to 
me that his statement was correct, he consented to be put in 
chains, and if he told a lie, to be punished as he deserved. 
I again gave orders that the boats and canoes should be pre- 
pared, and having placed in them all the men of my com- 
pany 1 who were still healthy and capable of bearing fatigue, 
sent them under the guidance of that man ; but ten days 
afterwards they came back just as they had departed, saying 
that the guide had conducted them to certain morasses, 
where neither boats nor canoes could float, and which they 
could not pass notwithstanding all their efforts. Having 
then asked the guide how it came to be that with all his 
protestations I had been deceived, he answered me that 
what he said was the exact truth, and that it was no fault of 
his if the Spaniards I had sent along with him would not go 

1 Cortes seems to have divided his Spaniards into companies, and to 
have himself taken the command of one. 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 75 

on, as he recommended them to do; they had been very 
close to the spot where the river joined the sea, and some of 
them even owned that they had heard the distant murmur 
of the waves. 

I cannot express the feelings of horror and dismay that 
assailed me when I saw my hopes thus baffled for the third 
time, and calculated that not one of us could possibly escape 
death by starvation. But in this state of mind, and not 
knowing what to do, God Almighty, who in such extreme 
emergencies is always at hand, showing His favours to those 
persons who least deserve them, as myself, no doubt because 
I am employed in your Majesty's service, was pleased to 
bring us help and assistance whence we did least expect it. 
For there happened to arrive in those very days a vessel 
from the islands with thirty men, exclusive of the crew, 
thirteen horses, seventy and odd pigs, besides twelve casks 
of salted meat, and thirteen loads of bread of the kind used 
in the islands. 1 We all most earnestly thanked our God 
for the timely succour thus received, and having treated 
with the master, bought of him all those provisions, besides 
the vessel herself, for the sum of 4,000 dollars. 

Some time previous to the arrival of those Spaniards, I 
had set about repairing a caravel which the people of that 
village had almost allowed to rot, and to build, with the 
pieces 'of other vessels that lay scattered here and there on 
the shore, a good-sized brigantine. When, therefore, this 
vessel from the islands arrived so unexpectedly among us, 
the caravel was completely finished and ready to take the 
sea ; but I do believe that the brigantine's work could never 
have been done, had not a man come in that vessel's crew 
who, although not a carpenter himself, knew enough of that 
craft to help us in our work. 

Some time after this, having sent parties of men in all 
directions by land, a path was discovered across mountains, 
1 That called cazabe. 



76 THE FIFTH LETTER 

distant eighteen leagues from the place where I then was, 
and leading to some habitations where plenty of food was 
found, though, owing to the great distance and bad roads, 
it was of little or no avail. At these habitations, known by 
the name of Leguela, 1 some Indians were taken, who told us 
that the place where Francisco de las Casas, and Christoval 
de Olid, and Gil Gonzalez de Avila had resided, and 
whereat the said Christoval de Olid died, was a town called 
Naco, as I have already informed your Majesty, and wil 
again hereafter. The same statement had been made to me 
by the Spaniards I found at Nito, 2 and therefore I gave 
orders to clear the road, and sent forward all my men, foot 
and horse, under one of my captains, keeping only with me 
the servants of my household, the sick and invalids, and a 
few more who preferred going by sea. I gave my instruc- 
tions to that captain and bade him repair to the said town of 
Naco, and try to pacify the inhabitants of the province, who, 
in consequence of the arrival of those Spaniards among 
them, were rather excited and disturbed. When at Naco, he 
was to send ten or twelve horsemen and as many crossbow- 
men to the bay and port of Saint Andrew, which is about 
twenty leagues from that place. In the meantime, I, with 
the sick and wounded, and the rest of the army, would pro- 
ceed thither by sea, and wait for them in case I arrived first ; 
if, on the contrary, they were on the spot before me, they 
were to encamp and wait for orders. 

1 All copies present the same reading, and therefore there can be no 
doubt as to the name of this place, which is not on the maps. 

2 The Vienna MS. has: "Tambien de ello tuve yo noticia por aquellos 
espaiioles que halle en aquel pueblo de Leguela;" but this is evidently an 
error, which originated no doubt in Cortes' secretary writing Leguela in- 
stead of Nito. It was at this latter place, and not at Leguola, that the con- 
queror of Mexico met with the Spaniards. See above, p. C8. Nito and 
Naco, though frequently confounded by ancient and modern writers, are 
two distinct places. The former has since lost its name, and is now 
known as San Gil de Buena Vista, on the Golfo Dulce. Naco is the 
name of a pleasant and spacious valley, surrounded by fertile hills, 
between San Tedro Zula and Puerto Caballos. 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 77 

The people gone, and the brigantine being made fit for 
sea, I thought of embarking in her and in the other vessels 
with the remainder of my people; but I found that, although 
we had salt meat enough, we had not sufficient bread, and 
that it was a very adventurous thing to put to sea without this 
article, especially with so many sick people as I had on board, 
for were we to encounter bad weather or contrary winds, we 
were sure to die of hunger, instead of finding remedy for our 
wants. But. whilst I was considering what could best be 
done in such an emergency, the master of that vessel that 
came from the islands, and was bought by me, as I have 
already informed your Majesty, called upon me and said 
that he himself had formed part of the expedition of Gil 
Gonzalez when he came to those parts; that he had two 
hundred men, one good brigantine, and four other vessels ; 
and that, with the said brigantine and the boats of the 
vessels, they had gone a good way up that river, and met 
with two great gulfs, the waters of which were sweet ; and 
that all around those two gulfs there were several villages 
well stocked with food. That they had navigated to the 
very end of them, for a distance of fourteen leagues up the 
river, when all of a sudden the stream became so narrow 
and at the same time so impetuous and strong, that in six 
days they could only make four leagues, notwithstanding 
the waters were still very deep. That owing to that cir- 
cumstance they had been unable to ascertain where the 
river led to; but that he believed it led to a country abound- 
ing in maize. " But," he added, "you have not men enough 
to go on such a voyage of exploration; for when we were on 
that river, eighty of us landed and entered a certain village 
without being seen, but soon after the natives returned in 
such force, and attacked us with such fury, that we had to 
take to our ships, and some of us were wounded. 

Seeing, however, the extreme want in which my men 
were, and that it was far preferable to cross the land in 



78 THE FIFTH LETTER 

search of food, however perilous the route might be, than 
to expose myself to the dangers of the sea without sufficient 
provisions, I determined at once to go up that river ; for, 
besides finding food for the people under me — which was 
then my principal care — it struck me that I might make 
some discovery whereby to be of service to your Majesty. I 
immediately mustered the force I had with me, that is, those 
who were still able to bear the fatigues of a march, and I 
found it to consist of only forty Spaniards, who, though not 
sufficiently strong for every kind of work, were nevertheless 
well enough to remain in guard of the ships whenever I 
might choose to land. With these forty Spaniards, and 
about fifty Indians 1 who still remained out of those I brought 
from Mexico, I went on board the said brigantine, already 
fit for sea, and with two other boats and four canoes set out 
in the direction of that river that we were to ascend, leaving 
inland all my sick people and a steward of mine to attend 
to them and provide them with food. Our navigation up 
the river was at first very hard and troublesome, owing to 
the strength of the current; but after two nights and one 
day we came to the first of the two gulfs above alluded to, 
a distance of about three leagues from the place of our start- 
ing. The gulf may measure about twelve leagues round, 
but its shores are completely deserted, being very low and 
swampy. We navigated its waters during twenty-four hours, 
until we came to a sort of narrow bay made by the river, 
into which I penetrated, and on the following day arrived 
at the other gulf, which is certainly one of the finest things 
to behold, for in the midst of a rocky and precipitous chain 
of mountains there was a magnificent bay, which could very 
well measure thirty leagues -round. I followed close inland, 
until perceiving near the shore a village, and a path leading 

1 Cincuenta in all the copies ; but it is hardly to be believed that so 
large a number should have perished on the road, Cortes himself stating 
elsewhere that they exceeded three thousand. 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 79 

to it, I landed, and at about two-thirds of a league, came 
upon some houses, the inhabitants of which had no doubt 
seen us in the distance ; for they were deserted and com- 
pletely emptied. We found, however, in the neighbouring 
fields abundance of green maize, of which we ate that night 
and the morning of the following day; but as we did not 
find there what we wanted, we made provision of that green 
maize, and returned to our boats, without meeting with any 
of the natives. In sailing across the gulf, which was 
effected with some difficulty, owing to a strong contrary 
wind that overtook us in the middle of it, one of the canoes 
was overset ; but the people in her were saved by the crew 
of one of the boats, except one Indian, who was drowned. 
It was late in the evening when we touched the shore, but 
could not land until the following morning; when entering 
a small stream that emptied its waters at that spot, and 
leaving the brigantine behind, I began to explore it with 
the boats and canoes. In this manner I came to a place on 
the shore where there appeared to be a pathway, and having 
given orders that the boats and canoes should return to the 
gulf by the brigantine's side, I landed with thirty of my 
men and all the Indians, and, following the pathway, came 
at about a quarter of a league upon a village, which seemed 
to have been abandoned by its inhabitants many days before, 
for the houses were full of weeds, although there was in the 
vicinity many a fine orchard filled with cacao and other 
fruit-trees. I went round the village to see if there was a 
road, and found one at last, but it was so rough that it 
seemed as if it had not been trod for some time. However, 
finding no other, I determined to follow that one, and we 
marched on that day five leagues,* over mountains so rugged 
and steep, that we had to make use of our hands and feet in 
climbing. We then came to some maize plantations, where, 
in a house standing in the middle of them, we took three 
women and a man, to whom, no doubt, these fields belonged. 



80 THE FIFTH LETTER 

By these women we were guided to other plantations, where 
we took two more women, and thence to a large tract of 
cultivated land, and in the centre of it about forty houses, 
very small, but newly built. It would appear, however, 
that the people had been informed of our arrival, for when 
we came the village was deserted, and the inhabitants had 
fled to the mountains'. . But as we came upon them so sud- 
denly, they could not carry away all their property, and left 
behind many things, principally fowls, pigeons, partridges, 
and pheasants, which they kept in cages. There was, how- 
ever, no dried maize, and no salt. "We passed the night at 
this place, and somewhat relieved our wants, having satisfied 
our hunger with the fowls and some green maize which 
we found in the plantations. 

We had been in that village more than two hours, when 
two of the natives, unconscious of having such guests, re- 
turned to their houses, and were taken prisoners by the 
sentries I had placed at the entrance. Being asked by me 
whether they knew of any other village in the vicinity, they 
answered that there was one, and that they would willingly 
conduct me to it on the next day, though, the distance 
being considerable, we could only reach it late in the even- 
ing, and almost by night. On the following morning, there- 
fore, we undertook our march, guided by those two Indians, 
by roads still worse than those of the previous day ; for, 
besides their being quite as covered with low wood and 
brambles, we had at every arrow's throw to cross some 
river of the many that empty their waters in the gulf. For 
it is owing to the great accumulation of waters that come 
down from the mountains that those gulfs and lagoons are 
formed, and that the river I have described to your Majesty 
flows with such rapidity and force. Thus, without meeting 
any habitations, and crossing no less than five-and-forty of 
those large streams, not including in that number several 
rivulets, we made about seven leagues of that bad "road. 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 81 

Whilst we were marching under the guidance of those men, 
we met three Indian women loaded with maize, and coming 
from that very village whither we were being conducted; 
and having asked them whether the report of our guides was 
a true one, they certified us of it. At sunset of that same 
day we heard a sound as of beating drums, and having 
asked the women what it could be, they said that it was a 
festival in the village. As, whenever I came to one, I did 
my utmost to take the inhabitants by surprise, on this occa- 
sion I took every precaution not to be seen. I hid my 
people, as well as I could, in the crevices of the mountain, 
and placed sentries almost above the village, and on the 
road, with orders to secure any Indian that might make his 
appearance at that hour. I thus passed the night on that 
mountain, but it rained so hard all the time, and we were so 
pestered by mosquitos, that we could not remain where we 
were. Two or three times during the night we attempted 
to come down from the mountain, and assail the village; but 
it was so dark and stormy, that although the village was 
close by, and we could almost hear the natives speak to 
each other, we never succeeded in finding our way to it. 
We waited, therefore, until daybreak, when we came down 
with such opportunity, that we took them all in their sleep. 
I had given positive orders that nobody should enter a pri- 
vate dwelling, or shout, or utter war-cries, but enjoined 
them, on the contrary, to surround in silence the largest and 
best-looking houses, specially that of the chief, and one re- 
sembling a great barrack, where we had been told that all 
the warriors of the place congregated together. These pre- 
cautions being taken, God permitted that the first building 
we came to was that where the warriors were assembled. 
It was already daylight, and as one of my men saw so many 
people armed, and considered how few in number we were 
to attack them with success, although asleep, he began to 
shout our usual war-cry, saying " Santiago, Santiago !" 



82 THE FIFTH LETTER 

At this rumour and noise the Indians woke, when some 
of them took to their weapons and others did not ; but the 
house having no walls, and the roof being supported only 
by wooden posts, most of the Indians, on our entering the 
place, fled in every direction, especially as it was too large 
to be completely surrounded. 

I can assure your Highness that if that Spaniard had not, 
contrary to my orders, begun to shout in the manner he did, 
I should have taken every one of them prisoners, and it 
might have turned out the finest feat of arms ever made 
in those parts, and been the cause of the pacification of all 
the land. For after explaining the reason of my coming 
among them, and promising to do them no injury, I would 
have set them free ; and they, seeing the manner in which 
they were treated, and that I meant no harm, would un- 
doubtedly have become my friends, instead of bitter enemies, 
as they afterwards proved to be. This notwithstanding, we 
took in the village fifteen men and twenty women, besides 
ten or twelve men more, who chose death rather than 
to be taken alive, and among these their chief, whose 
body was afterwards identified and . shown to me by the 
prisoners themselves. Nor did we find at this village any- 
thing that could be of use to supply our wants, for although 
there was plenty of green maize in the fields, it was not the 
sort of food that we came in search of. 

In this village I remained two days, with a view to afford 
some rest to my people. Having asked the Indians made 
prisoners at the place whether they knew of any other vil- 
lage in the vicinity where dried maize could be obtained, 
they answered me that they knew of one, called Chacujal, 1 
a very populous and ancient one, where all manner of pro- 
visions might be found in abundance. With this informa- 
tion I set on, guided by those Indians, in the direction of 

1 Only one of the copies affords this reading, which seems to me the 
most acceptable ; all others having Chaantel, Chuantel, or Chuhantel. 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 83 

the village described ; and having marched during that day- 
six long leagues of bad road cut by many a river, arrived at 
some extensive plantations, which our guides told us be- 
longed to the village in question. Following, then, for 
about two leagues a mountain path in sight of the said culti- 
vated fields, and using every precaution not to be felt or 
seen by the natives, we came upon a troop of eight Indians, 
who, not knowing who we were, came to meet us, and were 
taken prisoners by my scouts and people in the van. They 
were all either labourers who had gone out to cut wood, or 
hunters. At about sunset I was told by the guides to halt, 
as the village was close by. I did as they told me, and 
passed three hours of the night hid in a forest, after which 
I began to march, still guided by those Indians, until we 
came to a river, which we crossed with the water up to our 
breasts, though the current was so strong that, had we not 
taken the precaution of holding each other by the hand, 
some of us might have been carried away by the force of it. 
The river once crossed in the manner just explained, and 
the guides having again told me that the village was close 
at hand, I ordered the men to halt, and went myself with 
two companies to see if the report was true. Proceeding 
without noise, I came to a spot whence I could distinctly 
see the houses, and even hear the voices of the people in- 
side ; everything seemed quiet, and the natives unconscious 
of our arrival. I then returned to my own people, leaving 
on each side of the road that led to the village six men to 
keep watch and inform me of what they saw. I had laid 
down on some straw, in order to rest, when one of the 
scouts came to me, and said that by the road communicating 
with the village he saw a body of armed men coming down 
upon us ; but that they marched without any order or pre- 
caution, speaking to each other, and as if they were ignorant 
of our being on their passage. I immediately summoned my 
men up, and made them arm themselves as quickly and 



84 THE FIFTH LETTER 

noiselessly as they could ; but as the distance between the 
village and the place where we had encamped was so short, 
before we were ready to meet them the Indians discovered 
the scouts, and letting fly on them a volley of their arrows, 
began to retreat towards their village, fighting all the time 
with those of my men who were foremost. In this manner 
we entered the village mixed up with them ; but the night 
being dark, the Indians suddenly disappeared in the streets, 
and we could find no enemies. Fearing some ambush, and 
suspecting that the people of the village had been somehow 
informed of our arrival, I gave crders to my men to keep 
well together, and marching through the place, arrived at a 
great square, where they had their mosques and houses of 
worship ; and as we saw the mosques and the buildings 
round them just in the manner and form of those of Culua, 
we were more overawed and astonished than we had been 
hitherto, since nowhere since we left Aculan had we seen 
such signs of policy and power. There were even some 
among us who expressed the opinion that we ought immedi- 
ately to return and cross the river that very night, before 
the people of the village, perceiving how few we were, took 
possession of that pass, and cut from us all retreat. The advice 
was not bad, considering what we had already seen of the 
place, and what we could expect from its inhabitants; but it 
seemed to me that we could not depart in that way, for if we 
did, the enemy would be made aware sooner of our weak- 
ness, and therefore attack us in our retreat, whereas by re- 
maining where we were, we gave signs of courage, by which 
the Indians might be overawed. And so it happened, for 
after remaining in that large square for a length of time 
without being molested in the least, or hearing any noise 
whatever, I entered with my men one of those spacious halls 
which they generally have near the temples of their idols, 
and soon after sent out some of my men to report what they 
saw or heard in the village. They soon came back to me, 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 85 

full of joy, saying that not only had they not heard any one 
stir in the village, but that the houses had all been de- 
serted by their inmates, and that in every one of them 
there was fire burning, and a good stock of provisions. We, 
however, passed that night on watch, and on the following 
morning sent out several parties of men to explore the vil- 
lage, which was well designed, the houses well built, and 
close to each other. We found in them plenty of cotton, 
woven or raw, much linen of Indian manufacture, and of 
the best kind, great quantities of dried maize, cacao, beans, 
peppers and salt, many fowls, and pheasants in cages, par- 
tridges, and dogs of the species they keep for eating, and which 
are very tasteful to the palate, and in short every variety of 
food in such abundance, that had our ship and boats been 
near at hand, we might easily have loaded enough of it to 
last us for many a day ; but unfortunately we were twenty 
leagues off, had no means of carrying provisions except on 
the backs of men, and we were all of us in such a condition 
that, had we not refreshed ourselves a little at that place, 
and rested for some days, I doubt much whether we should 
have been able to return to our boats. On the next day I 
sent for one of the natives of the place, who, as I have said 
before, had been taken prisoner in the plantations, and 
seemed to be a person of some importance, for he was taken 
with his bow and arrows hunting, and was very well dressed 
according to the manner of the Indians ; and having spoken 
to him through an interpreter, bade him go to the chief of 
the village and its inhabitants, and tell them in my name 
that I was not come among them for the purpose of causing 
annoyance, but merely to entertain them on matters which 
concerned them much. That if che lord of the place or 
some of the chief inhabitants came to see me, they would 
learn the cause of my coming, and be sure that if they came 
much good would result to them ; and on the contrary, if 
they refused, they might suffer from it. I therefore de- 



86 THE FIFTH LETTER 

spatched that Indian with a letter 1 of mine to the chief of 
the village, having found by experience that ray letters 
had always the effect of inspiring confidence in the people 
of those parts. But I must confess that I did it against the 
advice of some of my people, who said it was imprudent to 
send the Indian with such a message, because he could not 
fail to inform his countrymen of the smallness of our num- 
ber. That the village was large and populous, as it ap- 
peared from the quantity of houses built close together. 
That the inhabitants, seeing how few we were, might easily 
send to their neighbours for assistance, and fall at once upon 
us. The advice was good ; yet, wishing to find the means 
of effectually provisioning my little army, and believing that 
if those people came to me with peaceable intentions they 
might perhaps suggest the manner of carrying away some of 
the food we had collected, I decided to sacrifice everything 
to that important object; for in truth there was no less dan- 
ger for us in quitting the place without a stock of provisions 
for the future, than in fighting with those Indians, in case 
they might have come down upon us. All these considera- 
tions decided me to despatch the Indian, as I did, he pro- 
mising to return on the following day, as he said he knew 
the spot where the chief man of the place and his people 
might be. 

On the day after this, which was that appointed for the 
return of the Indian, as two of my Spaniards were making 
the round of the village, and exploring the fields in the 
neighbourhood, they found the letter I had given the 
messenger stuck upon a pole by the side of the road, whence 
1 concluded that I should never get an answer to it. And 

1 Y asi le despache con una carta mia, which leaves no doubt what- 
ever as to the meaning ; and yet one would feel inclined to inquire how 
the people of Guatemala and Honduras could be made to understand 
the Mexican hieroglyphics, for it is not to be supposed that the letter 
was in Spanish. 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 87 

so it was, for the Indian messenger never returned ; and, 
although we remained full eighteen days at that place, rest- 
ing and considering about the means of carrying away some 
of the provisions found at the houses, never in all that time 
did we cast our eye on a living creature. 

One day the idea struck me that by following down the 
river of that village I might perhaps come to the other large 
river that empties itself in the sweet gulfs, where I had left 
my brigantine, as well as my boats and canoes. I consulted 
the matter with some of the prisoners of that village, and 
they all seemed to agree in saying that the two rivers com- 
municated; but as they did not understand us well, and they 
spoke a language totally different from those we had hitherto 
met, no great reliance could be placed in their information. 
Through signs, however, and aided by a few words in that 
language which I understood, I begged that two of them 
should accompany ten of my Spaniards, and show them the 
meeting of the two rivers. This they promised to do, adding 
that the place was near at hand, and that they would be 
back on the next day. And so it was, for God permitted 
that after marching two leagues through very fine orchards, 
full of cacao and other fruit trees, they should guide my 
men to the banks of that large river, which they said com- 
municated with the gulf, where my shipping was. They 
even went so far as to say that the river's name was Apolo- 
chic, and that they had often navigated it. On their return, 
the next day, I asked them how many days it would take a 
canoe to go down the river to the gulfs, and having 
answered me that five days were sufficient to accomplish the 
journey, I determined upon sending thither two Spaniards, 
accompanied by one of the guides, who offered to take them 
by cross-roads known to him to the very spot on the gulf 
where my ships were. I gave my men instructions to have 
the brigantine, boats and canoes taken to the mouth of that 
large river, and that, leaving the vessel behind, they should 



88 THE FIFTH LETTER 

try with one of the canoes and a boat to ascend the river to 
the spot where the other one joined it. This being done, 
and the men despatched on their errand, I ordered four 
rafters to be constructed with pieces of timber and very 
large bamboos, capable of supporting forty faneagues or 
bushels of dried maize and ten men each, without counting 
a quantity of beans, peppers and cacao, which each Spaniard 
afterwards threw into it for his own private supply. The 
rafters being made, after eight days' hard work, and the 
provisions placed on them, the Spaniards I had sent to the 
brigantine came to me and said that, after ascending the 
river during six consecutive days, they had found it im- 
possible for the boat to go on, and had left it behind with 
ten Spaniards to guard it ; that prosecuting their journey 
with the canoe, they had arrived at a place, about one league 
down the river, where, worn out by fatigue, and unable to 
use their oars, they had left it hidden among the bushes. 
That on their way up the river they had met Indians, and 
fought occasionally with them, and although they were then 
few in number, they had reason to fear that they would 
come back in force, and wait for their return. I immedi- 
ately sent people to look out for the canoe, and bring it along- 
side of the rafters ; and having placed on these all the pro- 
visions we had collected, chose among my people those who 
were most capable of directing those rafts, and avoiding 
by means of great poles the many floating timbers and 
gigantic trees with which the bed of the river was covered, 
and which rendered the navigation extremely dangerous. 
The remainder of my people, under a captain appointed for 
the purpose, I sent to the gulf by the same route which we 
had followed in coming up to Chacujal, 1 with instructions 
that if they arrived before me they were to wait at the 
place of our landing until I should come for them, and that 
if, on the contrary, I was before them on the spot, I would 
1 The same place mentioned at page 82. 



OF HERN AN CORTES. 89 

not move until they came. As to myself, I embarked in 
the canoe with only two crossbow-men, the only ones dis- 
posable in all my suite. Though the journey I was about 
to undertake was exceedingly dangerous, owing to the im- 
petuosity and strength of the current, as well as the almost 
certainty that the Indians would wait for us on our passage, 
I nevertheless preferred this route by water to the other by 
water, because our stock of provisions went this way, and I 
could thus watch better over it. And so, trusting myself in 
the hands of God, our Saviour, I began descending the 
river with such rapidity, owing to the strength and violence 
of the current, that in less than three hours' navigation we 
came to the spot where the boat had been left. Here we 
attempted to lighten the rafts by putting part of their 
cargo in the boat, but it was found impracticable, for no 
human effort could stop the rafts, driven on as they were 
by a rapid current. I then embarked in the boat, and gave 
orders that the canoe, well fitted with good oars, should go 
in front of the rafts, in order to see whether any Indians 
lay in ambush, or whether we came to any dangerous pass 
in the river; I myself remaining behind with the boat ready 
to give assistance to the rafts, as it was clear to me that, in 
case of need, I might more easily help from the rear than 
if placed in the van. In this order we went down that river, 
until about sunset, when one of the rafts struck violently 
against a piece of timber that held fast to the bottom. So 
strong was the shock, that the raft was almost entirely 
submerged, and although the violence of the waters at that 
spot made it float again, half its cargo was lost. Three 
hours later in the night, I heard in front of us the shouting 
of some Indians, but not choosing to leave the rafts behind, 
I did not go forward to ascertain what it might be. The 
snouting, however, ceased, and we heard no more of it for 
some time. A little later in the night I again heard the 
shouts, at what seemed to me a shorter distance; but I could 



90 THE FIFTH LETTER 

not ascertain the fact, for the canoe went, as I have said, in 
front, then came three of the rafts, and I followed in the 
rear with the fourth, which, owing to the accident sustained, 
could not go so fast. 

In this manner we proceeded for some length of time, 
until we came to a turning of the river, where the current 
was so strong that, notwithstanding all our efforts, rafts 
and boat were cast on shore. Some time before this, hear- 
ing no longer those alarming shouts, confidence had re- 
turned to my people, and I myself, taking off my helmet — 
for I was ill with fever at the time — had laid my head on 
my hand to see if I could rest. It was soon, however, 
ascertained that the shouting we had heard in the distance 
came from that particular spot, for the Indians, who knew 
the river well, as inhabiting its banks, and being almost 
born on it, had followed us for some time along the shore, 
knowing very well that we should be cast by the current on 
the very spot where they were waiting in ambush for us. 
No sooner, therefore, did the canoe and rafts reach the 
place where the Indians lay concealed, than we were 
assailed by a volley of arrows from the shore, that wounded 
almost every man on board; though, knowing that most of 
us remained still behind, the attack of the Indians was by 
no means so strong or furious as the one they afterwards 
made on us. Thus assailed, the people in the canoe at- 
tempted to come back, and give me notice of the danger ; 
but they never succeeded in porting the helm, owing to the 
strength of the current. When, however, it came to our 
turn to strike the land, the Indians gave a most terrific 
shout, and assailed us with such a volley of arrows and 
stones, that not one man on board escaped without a wound. 
I myself was struck by a stone on the head, the only part of 
my body that was unarmed, having taken off my steel cap 
some time before. God, however, permitted that at the 
spot where this happened, the banks of the river should be 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 91 

high, and the waters deep. To this circumstance we 
owed our salvation; for the night being dark, some of the 
Indians who attempted to leap upon the rafts and boat, 
fell into the water, and I believe that a good number of 
them were drowned in this way. The current itself soon 
extricated us from the danger, so that a few minutes after 
this we scarcely heard their shouts. 

The rest of the night passed without encounter of any 
sort, though from time to time we still heard in the distance, 
or from the sides of the river, the Indian war-cries. The 
shores, I observed, were covered with villages and planta- 
tions, and there were, besides, very fine orchards with cacao 
and other fruit trees. 

At dawn of day we were five leagues from the mouth of 
that river that empties itself into the gulf, and where the 
brigantine was waiting for us, and about the hour of noon 
we arrived on the spot, so that in four-and-twenty hours we 
ran no less than twenty long leagues down that river. 

Having given orders that the provisions on the rafts 
should be transferred immediately to the brigantine, I was 
informed, to my great disappointment, that most of the maize 
was wet, and that if I could not have it dried, I ran a risk of 
losing the whole stock, whereby all the trouble we had in 
procuring it would have proved in vain. I immediately 
caused the dry maize to be put aside and stored in the brig- 
antine ; and as to that which had been spoilt by water, I had 
it thrown into the two boats and in two canoes, and sent in 
haste to the village for the purpose of drying ; the shores of 
that gulf being so swampy and low that there was no spot, 
however small, where the operation could be effectually 
carried on. My men, therefore, went away with the boats 
and canoes, but I gave them orders to send the same back to 
me, the brigantine and one remaining canoe being insufficient 
to convey all my people. Soon after their departure I set 
sail in the brigantine, and steered towards the place where 



92 THE FIFTH LETTER 

it was agreed that I should wait for the people coming from 
Chacujal by land. I waited for them three days, at the end 
of which they all arrived in good spirits, and with no other 
loss but that of a Spaniard, who having eaten of some herbs 
he saw in the fields, died almost immediately after. They 
also brought with them an Indian, whom they had surprised 
and taken prisoner near the place where I left them. This 
Indian was dressed differently and spoke a language un- 
known in these parts. I had already begun to interrogate 
him by signs, when a man was found among the prisoners 
who said he understood a little of his dialect. In this man- 
ner we learned that he was a native of Teculutlan. No 
sooner did I hear that name pronounced, than I recol- 
lected having heard it repeated on other occasions, and 
when I returned to the village I consulted certain memoranda 
of mine, where I actually found that name written as being 
that of a place across the country, between which and the 
Spanish establishments in the South Sea, governed by Pedro 
de Alvarado, one of my captains, there was only a distance of 
seventy-eight leagues. The above memoranda further 
stated that the village of Teculutlan had been visited by 
Spaniards, and as the Indian bore also testimony to the fact, 
I was very much pleased at receiving such intelligence. 

My people being all congregated together, and the boats 
not having yet returned, we consumed all the dry grain we 
had in store, and embarked on board the brigantine, though 
the vessel being so very small, we had the greatest diffi- 
culty to move. It was my idea to cross the gulf to 
that village where we had landed at first, because I recol- 
lected that the maize plantations were very fine and in full 
grain, though not sufficiently ripe for our cutting. Five- 
and-twenty days had elapsed since that time, and it was to 
be hoped that a good deal of it was dry enough for us to keep ; 
and it so happened ; for being one morning in the middle 
of the gulf, we saw the boats and canoes coming towards us, 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 93 

and having sailed altogether in that direction, recognised 
the place where the village was. Immediately after land- 
ing, all my people, Spaniards as well as Indians, besides 
forty native prisoners, went straight forward to the village, 
where they found several maize plantations in the finest 
possible condition. The natives, if there were any at the 
place, not having shown themselves or made any opposition, 
my men reaped as much of that maize as they could, every 
man of us, Christian or Indian, making that day three 
journeys, fortunately very short, from the village to the 
ship, loaded with as much grain as he could carry. The 
brigantine being filled as well as the boats, I went to 
the village myself, leaving there all my people engaged in 
that most providential harvest ; I afterwards sent to them 
the two boats, and one more belonging to a vessel from 
New Spain, that had been lost in those waters, and four 
canoes. In these vessels all my people embarked, after 
having, as I said before, brought sufficient provision to last 
us all for many a day. It was, indeed, a most providential 
supply, and one that compensated us for all our past 
troubles ; for had we not found it at that moment, we should 
all have perished through hunger. 

Our provisions being safely stowed in the ship and boats, 
I embarked with all the people of the division of Gil Gon- 
ralez Leutville who were in that village, 1 and those who 
still remained of my former army, and this being done, I set 
sail on the day of , 2 and steered for the 

harbour in the bay of St. Andrew. 3 I anchored near a point 
of land, where having first landed all those who could make 

1 As the name of this village on the Golfo Dulce is nowhere given, I 
am at a loss to determine whether Nito or San Gil is meant. I rather 
think it is a different place. 

2 None of the copies I have consulted gives the date of Cortes' de- 
parture for the bay of Honduras. 

3 San Andres, now called Puerto Caballos. 



94 THE FIFTH LETTER 

use of their legs, besides two horses that I had with me in 
the ship, ordered them to march to the said harbour and 
bay, where the people of Naco were to be already waiting 
our arrival. My object in doing so was to lighten a little 
the ship and boats, which, owing to their great cargoes, and 
to the number of men stowed in them, sank rather too much 
in the water, making the navigation at once difficult and 
perilous. The road to Naco by land was, moreover, known 
to us — as we had already passed it on a former occasion — 
and afforded no difficulty, save certain streams of water 
that had to be crossed, and on account of which I sent 
along with them, close to the shore, a boat to help in the 
crossing. On my arrival at the harbour, I found that the 
people of Naco had preceded me by two days. I learned 
from them that all the rest of the people were in good 
health, and that they were abundantly provided with maize, 
peppers, and other fruits of the land, but meat or salt they 
had not, and for two months before they had tasted none. 
I stayed there twenty days, seeing to what those settlers from 
Naco had better do, and looking for a convenient spot to 
found a city; for certainly that port is the best and the 
largest that can be found in all that coast of Tierra Firme, 
that is to say, from the Gulf of Pearls to Florida. God 
permitted that I should find one very good for all purposes ; 
for having sent people to search the beds of some small rivers 
in the neighbourhood, they returned to me with good 
samples of fine gold discovered one or two leagues from 
the spot which I had designated for a town. Owing to this 
latter circumstance, and to the goodness of the harbour, and 
to the fertile and populous districts in the neighbourhood, 
it seemed to me that your majesty would be pleased to have 
a town in this particular spot ; and, therefore, I sent a 
message to Naco, where the people [of Gil Gonzales] were 
for the most part settled, to inquire whether any of them 
would like to establish themselves there. As the land was 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 95 

good, there were about fifty — most of them belonging to the 
set that had come thither in my company — who consented to 
change residence. And so, in your majesty's name, I founded 
there a town, which I called the " Nativity of our Lady," 1 
because on that very day the levelling of the ground com- 
menced. I appointed alcaldes and municipal officers, 2 and 
left with them clergymen, church ornaments, and all 
necessaries for the celebration of the mass. I also left with 
them workmen and mechanics, such as a smith, with a very 
good forge and all the appendages of it, a carpenter and a 
shipwright, a barber and a tailor. Among the settlers there 
were twenty who possessed horses, and some who had cross- 
bows. In fine, I provided them with a certain quantity of 
powder and artillery. When, on my arrival at the place, I 
heard from the people who had lately come from Naco that 
the inhabitants of that village, 3 and others in the vicinity, 
had deserted their dwellings and fled to the mountains, and 
that they refused to return, though frequently invited to do 
so, recollecting the injuries and bad treatment received at 
the hands of Gil Gonzales, Christoval de Olid, and their 
followers, I took immediate measures to stop the evil, and 
gain, if possible, the confidence of the natives. I therefore 
wrote to the captain who there governed in my name, to 
try every means in his power to secure some of those 
Indians and send them under an escort to me, that I might 
speak to them and give every assurance that they should 
not be in the least molested. The captain did as I told him, 
and sent me a few Indians taken in a foray he had made for 
the purpose, and whom I entertained and treated as well as 
I could, speaking to them myself by means of an interpreter, 

1 La Natividad de Nuestra Senora. 

2 The Spanish word used is regidores, which cannot possibly be trans- 
lated otherwise. 

3 The port of Saint Andrew (ban Andres), where the new town, 
Natividad, was founded. 



96 THE FIFTH LETTER 

or through some of the principal Mexicans I had with me. 
They told them who I was, and what I had done in their 
country, and how well they all had been treated by me since 
they became my friends, and how they were protected and 
governed in justice in everything concerning themselves, 
their wives, their children, and their property ; how, on the 
contrary, those who were rebellious to your Majesty's autho- 
rity I considered my enemies, and treated them as such, 
doing them all the harm I could. These and other similar 
suggestions had the effect of somewhat calming the fears of 
the natives, who came to me saying, that they had well 
understood what these Mexicans told them ; but that they 
still doubted of its being true, because those captains who 
had arrived in their country before me had held a similar 
language to them, and yet had told a lie ; for immediately 
after their submission, they had taken from them their wives 
to make their bread, and the men to carry loads on their 
backs ; that they very much feared that notwithstanding my 
promises I would do the same. I again spoke to them through 
the interpreter, and through those Mexicans who came with 
me, assuring them that what I told them was the plain truth ; 
and as they saw that the Indians of my suite seemed happy 
and well treated, they had confidence in my words, and 
went away promising to persuade their chiefs and comrades. 
And so they did ; for a few days after this, I received intel- 
ligence from the captain, saying that many Indian families 
belonging to the neighbouring villages, such as Naco — where 
the Spaniards had settled — Quimistlan, Zula, Cholome, 1 and 
others, the smallest of which counted at least two thousand 
houses or fires, had peaceably returned to their dwellings, 
announcing that all the natives of that extensive province 
would soon do the same, having been informed who I was, 

1 One of the copies has these names differently : Quimotlan, Zecla y 
Tholoma; another one reads Zola y Choleme, whilst a third offers 
Quimixtitlan. 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 97 

and what my object was in coming among them, and other 
things to that purpose which those Mexicans had told them. 
They ended by a prayer that I should, as soon as possible, 
visit them, for they were certain that with my coming all 
the neighbouring provinces would make their submission. 
This I would willingly have done, had I not been obliged 
to proceed further on my march, in order to provide for 
certain matters, about which I will say something to your 
Majesty in the following chapter. 

On my arrival, invincible Caesar, at that village of Nito, 
where, as I said before, I found the people of Gil Gonzalez 
almost entirely forgotten and lost, I learned from them that 
Francisco de las Casas, one of my lieutenants, whom I had 
sent to inquire about Christoval de Olid and his men, and 
to know what had become of them, had left at about sixty 
leagues lower down the coast, in a harbour called by the 
pilots Las Honduras, a certain number of Spaniards, who no 
doubt were still there. No sooner, therefore, did I arrive at 
that village of Saint Andrew (where, in your Majesty's name, 
the town called Natividad de Nuestra Senora has since been 
founded), than I began to consider which would be the best 
means of communicating with them; and so, whilst I attended 
to the said foundation and population, and gave my instruc- 
tions to the captain and people at Naco as to what they were 
to do for the pacification of the Indians in the neighbourhood, 
I occupied myself about those people of Francisco de las Casas, 
sending thither, to Honduras, the vessel I had bought, with 
orders to ascertain whether they we're still living there, and, 
in case of their being alive at the place, to return to me 
with the information. I had nearly terminated my arrange- 
ments concerning the new town, when the vessel came back, 
bringing on board the procurador and one of the regidores 
or aldermen of the town, who, having come to my presence, 
begged me most earnestly, in the name of their fellow-citi- 
zens, to go and help them, as they were in the utmost dis- 



08 THE FIFTH LETTER 

tress, owing to the following circumstances which they ex- 
plained to me : — It would appear that the captain appointed 
by Francisco de las Casas, when he went away, and an 
alcalde whom he had likewise placed over the town, had 
taken possession of a vessel then in the harbour, and, out of 
one hundred and ten settlers, had persuaded fifty to follow 
them, leaving the remainder without weapons or iron tools 
of any sort, taking away besides almost everything they 
possessed, so that they were in great fear of either falling 
into the hands of the Indians, or being starved to death, 
for they had no means of providing for their wants. A 
vessel from Hispaniola, owned by the bachelor Francisco 
Moreno, had since arrived in those parts ; but, although 
they applied to him for provisions and help, he had re- 
fused to give them any ; as they would more amply inform 
me, if L only took the trouble of visiting them. Hearing 
the miserable plight to which those people were reduced, I 
again embarked with all the sick and wounded of my small 
army — though by that time some of them had died — it being 
my intention to send them from that place to the Islands and 
to New Spain, as I afterwards did. I took on board with 
me some of my own household servants, and gave orders be- 
sides that twenty horsemen and ten cross-bow-men should 
go by land, having heard that the road to the village was 
good and practicable, though they would have to pass some 
rivers on their way thither. 

Having met with contrary winds at sea, it took me full 
nine days to arrive at the port of Honduras, where I 
anchored ; and having gone into a boat with two Franciscan 
friars, who had always accompanied me, besides the Spaniards 
of my suite, made quickly for the shore, where the people of 
the town were already expecting me. As the boat came near 
to the shore, all those people jumped into the water, and took 
me out of the boat in their arms, showing every sign of hap- 
piness and joy at my coming. In this way we reached the 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 99 

village, and entered a church, where, after thanking our 
Lord and Saviour, they begged me to sit down and listen to 
the narrative of the events that had occurred in that locality, 
and the part they had taken in them, as they were under 
the impression that I might have been misinformed respect- 
ing some of them individually, and be angry in consequence. 
Thus, by hearing the truth, I might judge whether they had 
acted wrong, and accept their excuses. 

To this proposal I agreed, when a clergyman of theirs got 
up and made the following oration, which I here transcribe 
at full length : — " Sir : Your worship knows full well how 
all of us who now are here were sent from New Spain, under 
Christoval de Olid, your captain, to settle and populate in 
this country, in the name of His Imperial Majesty; and how 
we were told to obey the commands of the said captain as if 
they came directly from your worship. So we went along 
with him to the island of Cuba, where we were to take cer- 
tain provisions and horses that were still requisite for the 
intended expedition. Having entered the harbour of La 
Havana, in the said island, our captain communicated, by 
letters, 1 with Diego Velasquez, the governor, and with his 
Majesty's officers residing at the place, who procured him 
some volunteers. After providing ourselves with everything 
we wanted, through the agency of Alonso de Contreras, 
your worship's servant, who supplied us, we quitted the 
island, and continued our navigation. I will pass over in 
silence some incidents of our voyage, as uninteresting and 
tedious to narrate, and will go on to say how we arrived 
on this coast, fourteen leagues lower than the port of Cabal- 
los, where, having landed, the said Christoval de Olid took 
possession, in his Majesty's name and for your worship, of 
all the country around, laying soon after the foundations of 
a town, installing the alcaldes and aldermen already ap- 

1 Velasquez's residence at the time was Santiago de Cuba, formerly 
the capital of the island. 



100 THE FIFTH LETTER 

pointed in New Spain, and doing other official acts respect- 
ing the possession and population of the said town, always 
in your.worship's name, and as your governor and lieutenant, 
for such he was. Some days after this, he, the said Christo- 
val de Olid, made common cause with various servants of 
Diego Velasquez, who had accompanied the expedition from 
Cuba, and went through certain formalities, by which it was 
evident that he intended to shake off the obedience he owed 
to your worship ; and, although most of us blamed him for 
his conduct, we dared not remonstrate, because he threatened 
us with the gallows, but, on the contrary, feigned to approve 
of everything he did, especially when we saw that the very 
relatives and servants of your worship, who formed part of 
the expedition, had done the same; no doubt because they 
were not prepared to offer any resistance. Having received 
intelligence after this, through six messengers of Gil Gon- 
zalez de Avila, another of your worship's captains, whom he 
caused to be imprisoned, that the said captain, sent by your 
worship, was coming down upon him in force, Christoval 
de Olid went in person to wait for him at the ford of a 
certain river, by which he had forcibly to pass. Having, how- 
ever, waited some days in vain, he left one of his lieutenants 
with some force, and returned to this town, where he began 
to fit out two caravels, and to provide them with artillery 
and ammunition, with the intention of attacking a village 
higher up the coast, where some of the people of Gil Gon- 
zalez had previously made a settlement. He was thus en- 
gaged, and preparing for this expedition, when Francisco 
de las Casas unexpectedly entered the harbour with two 
vessels. No sooner did Christoval de Olid ascertain who he 
was, than he gave orders for the artillery of his caravels 
to fire on him, which it did, albeit the said Francisco de 
las Casas several times hoisted the flag of peace, and kept 
crying at the top of his voice that he was your worship's 
servant, and came there by your command. The artillery, 



OF HERNAN CORTES 101 

nevertheless, continued to play at the express order of Chris- 
toval de Olid, and ten or twelve shots were fired, one of 
which struck the side of one of the two vessels, and went 
through it. When the said Francisco de las Casas saw this 
act of open hostility against him and his men, he was fully 
persuaded that the rumours already current about Christoval 
de Olid's treason were quite certain, and that it would be 
a dangerous thing to temporise with such an enemy. He, 
therefore, prepared his guns, manned his boats, and, making 
his artillery play, took possession of those two vessels that 
were in the port, their crews having deserted them and fled 
on shore. 

" When Christoval de Olid saw his vessels taken, and him- 
self at the mercy of his enemy, he showed a disposition to 
come to terms, not indeed with any determination to end 
the affair amicably, but with a view to stop the said Fran- 
cisco de las Casas in his doings until the forces he had sent 
against Gil Gonzalez de Avila should come back, not finding 
himself strong enough to cope with him. He, therefore, 
tried to deceive Las Casas, who, being of a confiding dis- 
position, consented to everything he proposed. 

" Matters were in this state, and the negociations between 
the two chiefs still far from coming to an end, when all of a 
sudden a great tempest arose at sea, and as there was .10 
proper port at the place, and the coast was bad and full of 
shoals, the ship on board of which Francisco de las Casas was 
slipped her anchor, and was dashed against the shore, thirty- 
four of her crew being drowned. Las Casas and the rest of 
his men escaped in a state of almost complete nudity, and so 
ill-treated by the waves and lacerated by the rocks that they 
could scarcely keep their feet. In this plight they were 
brought to the presence of Christoval de Olid, who, having 
cast every one of them in irons, made them swear by the 
Holy Gospels that they would owe him obedience, look upon 
him as their captain and chief, and never afterwards go against 
his will. 



102 THE FIFTH LETTER 

" About this time news came how that field officer, whom 
Christoval de Olid had stationed near the river which the 
people of Gil Gonzalez had necessarily to pass, succeeded in 
apprehending fifty-seven of them, commanded by an alcalde 
mayor of that captain ; but he had, after some time, released 
them all, allowing them to go one way, whilst he with his 
men took another. Very much incensed at this, and hearing 
that his orders had not been punctually executed, Christoval 
de Olid started in the direction of Naco, where he had re- 
sided on a previous occasion, and took with him the said 
Francisco de las Casas and some of his men, leaving the rest 
of the prisoners under the care of a lieutenant and an alcalde, 
whom he appointed for the purpose. Las Casas then begged 
and entreated him several times, and in presence of all the 
people, to let him go back to your worship and report on 
what had taken place ; for if he did not, he, Las Casas, 
would try all means in his power to obtain his liberation ; 
and therefore advised him to keep good watch on his per- 
son, and not to trust him. Notwithstanding his entreaties 
and threats, Christoval de Olid never would let him go. 

" Some days after, Christoval de Olid, having received 
intelligence that Gil Gonzalez, followed by a few of his men, 
had settled, and was residing at a neighbouring place on the 
coast called Choloma, 1 sent against him some troops, and he 
and all his people were made prisoners. In this manner did 
Christoval de Olid secure and retain the persons of the two 
captains sent by your worship to these parts, although both, 
and each of them in particular, begged him several times to 
let them go their own way. He, moreover, in a like manner, 
made all those people of Gil Gonzalez swear that they would 
from that day hold and consider him as their chief and captain. 
As to Francisco de las Casas, many a time after the imprison- 
ment of Gil Gonzalez did he address the said Christoval de 
Olid in public, again entreating him to set him and his com- 
1 This is one of the villages mentioned at p. 96. 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 103 

panions at liberty, for otherwise, he added, one day or other, 
and finding their opportunity at hand, they were sure to 
release themselves and put him to death. Christoval de Olid, 
however, never would listen to his threats, until the tyranny 
of that governor becoming intolerable even to his own people, 
the prisoners recovered their liberty in the following man- 
ner : — One night that the three captains — that is to say, 
Christoval de Olid and his two prisoners — were together in 
the same room, and several other people with them, Fran- 
cisco de las Casas, who had been disputing rather violently 
with Olid on certain matters, rushed suddenly upon him, 
seized him by the beard, and, with a pen-knife that he held 
in his hand, for he had no other weapon with him, being at 
the time engaged in walking up and down the room and 
cutting his nails, gave him a cut across the throat, exclaim- 
ing, ' Down with the tyrant, and his tyranny ! AVe have 
borne it too long.' This being done, he and Gil Gonzalez 
and others of your worship's servants, who were then in the 
room, ran upon the arms of the soldiers, formerly his body- 
guard, and a scuffle ensued, in which the said Christoval de 
Olid, the captain and ensign of his body-guard, his field- 
officer, and others, were wounded, or taken prisoners and 
disarmed, though not one of them was killed. Christoval 
de Olid, in the midst of the fray, managed to escape from the 
house, and hide himself somewhere ; but in less than two 
hours the above-mentioned captains succeeded in securing 
the persons of his principal adherents, and quieting the rest 
of the people, publicly proclaiming, by the voice of the crier, 
that whoever knew whereabout Olid lay concealed, should 
report it immediately under pain of death. He was soon 
after detected, and placed in irons, and on the morning of 
the following day, having gone through his trial in due 
form, he was sentenced to death, and, his sentence being 
signed by the two said captains, he was beheaded, to the 
great satisfaction of all the people, who thus recovered their 
liberty. 



104 THE FIFTH LETTER 

" Immediately after Olid's execution, it was proclaimed, 
by public crier, that all those who wished to settle in this 
country should inscribe their names, and that those 
who wished to return to New Spain should also mani- 
fest their intentions. One hundred and ten settlers out of 
the whole number declared their wish to remain and live 
where they were ; all the rest said they preferred going back 
to' your worship, either with Francisco de las Casas or with 
Gil Gonzalez. Among those who chose to remain were 
twenty Spaniards who owned horses, and to that number I 
and all those who are here belong. Francisco de las Casas 
provided us with everything we wanted, appointed a cap- 
tain to command us, and bade us come to this coast and 
colonise for your worship and in the name of his Imperial 
Majesty. He also named alcaldes and aldermen, and a 
scrivener, or notary, an attorney-general to the Municipality, 
and an alguasil, and decided that the new town should be 
called Trujillo, promising, and giving us his word as a 
gentleman, that he would, as soon as possible, obtain for us 
from your worship the requisite aid in men, arms, horses, 
food, and other things necessary to keep the country at peace. 
He, moreover, gave us two interpreters, one Indian and one 
Christian", who understood very well the dialects of this 
country. And thus we took leave of him, intending to 
follow his instructions literally, whilst he, in order that your 
Worship should be made sooner acquainted with his doings, 
and assist us in our undertakings, despatched a ship with 
the news. 

" Having arrived at the port of Saint Andrew, also known 
as Los Caballos, we found there a caravel that had recently 
come from the Islands, and as, in that place, there did 
not seem to us to be a proper spot to found a town, and 
we knew of a better one, we freighted the said caravel to 
take down all our heavy luggage, and our captain went on 
board of her with about forty of his men and all our provi- 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 105 

sions and heavy goods, whilst those who, like us, had horses, 
and the rest of the people, followed by land, with no other 
apparel but that which we had on, in order to travel more at 
ease, and lest we should meet with an accident on our jour- 
ney. The captain, nevertheless, gave his full powers to one 
of the alcaldes, the same who now is here with us — for the 
other one went with him in the caravel — to command during 
his absence. In this manner we parted company, intending 
to join afterwards at this port ; but when, after a trouble- 
some and fatiguing march, during which we had many an 
encounter with the natives, and one above all more serious 
than the rest, in which two Spaniards and some of the 
Indians we had with us were killed, we were greatly sur- 
prised to find no vessel in the port. 

"As I have had the honour to inform your worship, we 
arrived at the place appointed for our meeting in the most 
miserable condition, with our clothes all torn, and our horses 
fatigued and unshod, yet we were happy and contented, be- 
cause we expected to find there the caravel with our captain 
and the rest of the men, our arms and luggage. But what 
was our disappointment and dismay when we saw that the 
caravel was not in port, and knew that all our necessaries, 
such as provisions, clothes, iron tools, and other valuables, 
were in the missing ship! We remained for some time stupe- 
fied and without knowingwhat resolution to take,until,having 
consulted together, we decided to wait at the spot for the 
succours which Francisco de las Casas had promised in your 
worship's name, and which we were sure would come 
sooner or later. And so we went on building the town, and 
took possession of the surrounding country in his Majesty's 
name, and had a legal act of the whole ceremony drawn 
before the notary of the municipality, as your worship may 
verify. 

" Five or six days after, there appeared at sea, about two 
leagues from this place, a caravel ; and having sent our 



106 THE FIFTH LETTER 

alguazil in a canoe to know whose she was, she proved to be 
under the command of a certain Francisco Moreno, a re- 
sident at Hispaniola, and a bachelor in law, who had 
come hither by order of the judges there exercising the 
royal authority, for the purpose of inquiring into certain 
business between Christoval de Olid and Gil Gonzalez. It 
further appeared that the caravel was well stocked with pro- 
visions, arms, and ammunition, the property of his Imperial 
Majesty. We were delighted at hearing this good news, 
and thanked our Lord most heartily for it, not doubting that 
we were forthwith to be remedied in our extreme want. 
Having therefore sent to the caravel the alcalde, the alder- 
men, and some of the principal citizens, that they might de- 
scribe our miserable situation, and beg the said bachelor 
Francisco Moreno to give us help, we were excessively 
grieved to see that he not only flatly refused to receive our 
deputation on board, but manned the sides of the ship ? 
though he consented at last that four of the party, without 
arms, should go on board and deliver their message, which 
we did in the best possible terms, informing him how we were 
settled in this town by order of your worship and in his 
Majesty's name, and how, in consequence of our captain 
having gone away in the caravel with everything we pos- 
sessed in the world, we had been left in a state of utter 
destitution, having neither provisions, arms, iron tools, 
nor clothes. That we firmly believed that God had brought 
him to the spot for our remedy; and since, as we had been 
informed, the cargo in the caravel belonged to his Majesty, 
we begged and entreated him to provide us with the neces- 
saries of life, by which he would do service to his Majesty 
and to your worship, and at the same time not lose any- 
thing, for we bound ourselves to pay him the price of every 
thing he gave us. To this he answered that he was not 
come hither to provide for our wants, and would not give us 
anything unless we paid him on the spot in gold or slaves. 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 107 

" Two merchants who were in the caravel, and a certain 
Gaspar Troche, from the island of Saint John, then tried to 
interfere in our favour, asking the said Moreno to give us 
what we wanted, and offering to stand security for the pay- 
ment to the amount of five or six thousand castellanos, to be 
delivered at such periods as he would fix. They further told 
him that he well knew they had sufficient property to take 
such an engagement, and that in doing so they believed they 
did a service to his Majesty, besides being agreeable to your 
worship, who, they had no doubt, would repay their advances 
and be grateful for the service. Not even then, solicited as 
he was by those people, would he consent to give or sell us 
anything he had on board; but on the contrary, bade us go at 
once, and literally put us out of his caravel, saying that he 
wanted to make sail and go away. He however sent after 
us one named Juan Ruano whom he had in his company, 
and who had been the principal instigator of Christoval de 
Olid's treason. This Ruano communicated secretly with the 
alcalde, with the aldermen, and with some of us also, pro- 
mising that if we would only follow his advice, he would not 
only induce bachelor Moreno to give us everything we 
wanted, but that on his return to Hispaniola, he, Ruano, 
would obtain from the judges there residing that we should 
not have to pay for anything, and that he would besides 
have us provided from that island with men, arms, horses, 
food, and all the necessaries of life. That if we did as he 
told us, the same bachelor Moreno would soon return to us 
■with all those things, and sufficient powers also from the 
judges to become our chief and captain. Having then asked 
him what he expected us to do in return, Ruano answered 
that we were before all things to depose from their respec- 
tive charges the alcalde, the aldermen, the treasurer and 
accounting master, besides the inspector and all the other offi- 
cials who were there in representation of your worship's 
authority. After this we were to apply to the said bachelor 



108 THE FIFTH LETTER 

Moreno to appoint him, Ruano, for our captain, saying that 
we were determined to obey in future the orders of the 
Audiencia, and not those of your worship. We were to 
make a petition to this effect, and sign it with all our names, 
including an oath of allegiance to the said Juan Ruano, and 
a promise that if any people or messengers came from your 
worship, we were not only to disobey their orders, but even 
to take up arms in our defence. 

" Our answer to such propositions was that it was impossible 
for us to accept, since we had taken a different oath. That 
we were here settled for his Majesty, and in your worship's 
name, as his captain and governor, and could not do what 
they asked from us. To this answer of ours the said Juan 
Ruano replied that he again begged us to consider whether 
it was not better for us to accept his proposals than die 
through starvation. For certainly, he added, Moreno will 
never give you a morsel of bread or a jug of water as long 
as you persist in your refusal, having already announced his 
determination to set sail and go away. 

" Hearing this, we again met together, and compelled by 
want, came to the resolution of granting everything that man 
asked rather than expose ourselves to certain death through 
starvation, or at the hands of the natives, for we had no 
weapons wherewith to defend ourselves. We therefore told 
Ruano that we were ready to comply with his wishes, and 
that he could at once return to the caravel and announce 
our intention. He did so, and soon after the said bachelor 
Francisco Moreno came on shore, followed by many armed 
people, and Juan Ruano had a petition drawn before the 
notary of the place, signed by almost every one of us, and 
strengthened by our oaths, in which we asked him, Ruano, 
to be our captain and governor ; after which the alcalde, the 
aldermen, the treasurer, the accounting master, and veedor 
resigned their respective offices, and the name of the town 
was changed — being called Ascension instead of Trujillo — 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 109 

and certain official deeds were drawn whereby it appeared 
that we were there settled under the authority of the judges 
at Hispaniola, and not on your worship's account. 

" The above deedsbeing passed and signed, the said bachelor 
supplied us with everything we wanted, and ordered a foray 
to be made into the districts surrounding our settlement, 
when we brought in a certain number of prisoners, who, 
being marked with a hot iron as slaves, he afterwards took 
away with him. He even refused to pay the fifth that was 
due to his Majesty, ordering that in future there should be 
neither treasurer, nor accounting master, nor inspector to col- 
lect and receive the royal rights, but that the said Ruano — 
whom he left over us as captain — should be the sole receiver, 
without any sort of control or book-keeping. And this 
being done, he sailed for Hispaniola, leaving, as I have 
already related to your worship, the said Juan Ruano to 
command over us, under certain requisitory clauses in case 
any forces sent by your worship came to these parts, pro- 
mising at the same time to return soon with such an army 
that nobody would dare to resist the authority of the judges, 
in whose name those measures were taken. 

"No sooner,however, had Moreno departed, than persuaded 
as we all were that the above acts and deeds were con- 
trary to the service of his Majesty, we seized on the person 
of the said Juan Ruano, and sent him a prisoner to the 
islands, after which the alcalde and aldermen again filled 
their respective offices as before, and we have since been, 
and are still, subject to your worship's orders in his Majesty's 
name, humbly asking your worship to pardon our mis- 
demeanours in the time of Christoval de Olid's time, because 
we were also compelled by force, and could not act other- 
wise." 

The address being ended, I answered those people that 
the offences in Christoval de Olid's time I fully forgave in 
his Majesty's name, and as to more recent acts, they were 



HO THE FIFTH LETTER 

not guilty of any, since they had been compelled by hunger 
and utter destitution; but that they were in future to ab- 
stain from all similar revolutions and scandals, by which 
they would no doubt incur your Majesty's displeasure, and 
bring on themselves the condign punishment for all offences, 
past as well as present. And in order more fully to impress 
them with my disposition to forgive, and forget even the 
events in which they had been concerned, as well as with 
my readiness to favour and assist them with all my might — 
provided always that they would continue the faithful vassals 
of your Majesty — I forthwith confirmed in their respective 
offices, and in the royal name, the alcaldes and aldermen 
who had been appointed by Francisco de las Casas, acting 
as my lieutenant. At all of which they were very much 
rejoiced, without fear of being ever questioned as to past 
offences. 

Having, however, represented to me that Moreno would 
shortly come back upon them with considerable forces, and 
new provisions from the judges residing at Hispaniola, I 
did not then move from the port, that I might be ready to 
protect them in case of need ; but seeing that he did not 
make his appearance, and having received certain informa- 
tion respecting the Indians in the immediate neighbourhood, 
I gave all my attention to the affairs of the new settlement. 
I learned through the Spaniards that at about six or seven 
leagues from the town there were certain villages of Indians 
with whom they had had skirmishes, whenever they had 
gone that way in search of provisions. Some of the natives, 
however, were better disposed than others for peace ; for 
although they had no interpreter to converse with them, 
they had shown by signs their good will and friendship. No 
doubt that if these people were spoken to by a person who 
knew their language, they might be easily reduced, although 
they had on several occasions been ill-used, the Spaniards 
taking from them certain women and boys, the same that 



OF HERN AN CORTES. Ill 

bachelor Moreno had marked with a hot iron as slaves, and 
taken away in his ship. 

God knows how much grieved I was by such intelligence, 
knowing full well the great evils that might ensue from these 
proceedings. I, therefore, by the vessels I sent to His- 
paniola, wrote to the judges of that island, complaining about 
the said bachelor Moreno, and enclosing a written testimonial 
of all the misdeeds executed by him in that town and its 
immediate neighbourhood, besides certain requisitory letters 
in which I enjoined them — as your Majesty's captain-general 
in these parts of New Spain — to send to me the said bachelor 
Francisco Moreno, a prisoner and in irons, together with all 
the natives of this province, whom he had taken as slaves 
in direct violation of the laws promulgated on that subject, 
as was fully proved by the papers and documents which I 
also sent. I do not know what the said judges will decide 
on my application : of their resolution, if they take any, I 
shall not fail to inform your Majesty. 

Two days after my arrival at this port and town of Tru- 
jillo, I sent to those villages in the neighbourhood, which 
the settlers had mentioned to me, a Spaniard and three 
Indians from Culua, who knew their dialect well, and to 
whom I gave my full instructions as to what they were to 
say to the chiefs and natives of the said villages, namely, 
who I was, and how I had arrived among them ; for, owing 
to the great traffic there was in those parts, many people 
had learned through merchants and traders my doings in 
Mexico. Among the first villages visited by these mes- 
sengers of mine, there was one called Champagua, 1 and 
another Papayeca, 2 which are seven leagues distant from 
Trujillo, and two from each other. They were both con- 
siderable, as we have since ascertained, because the latter, 

1 This name is sometimes written Chapagua, the sign for the m being 
omitted. 

2 Sometimes Papayecua and Papayegua. 



11.2 THE FIFTH LETTER 

Papayeca, has eighteen small villages appertaining to it, 
whilst Champagua had ten. It pleased, however, our Lord 
and Saviour — who, as we know by daily experience, takes 
especial care of us — that the inhabitants of Papayeca should 
listen with great attention to my embassy, and send along 
with those messengers of mine certain numbers of their 
people, to learn the truth of what my interpreters had told 
them. They were very well received by me, and having 
presented them with some trifles, I again addressed them 
through the interpreter I had with me ; for it was found 
that their dialect and that of Culua do not differ essentially, 
and are almost one and the same, with the exception of a few 
words, and some slight change in the pronunciation. I re- 
peated to them what my messengers had already said, adding 
a few things that I considered necessary to inspire them with 
greater confidence, and begged them very earnestly to per- 
suade their chiefs to come and see me, with which they took 
leave, and went away very contented. Five days after this 
a principal Indian, by name Montamal, and who, as it was 
found out afterwards, was the chief of a village called Telica, 
in the district of Champagua, came to see me ; whilst on 
behalf of Papayeca and its province there came another 
Indian, named Cecoatl, 2 who was also chief of Coabita, 3 a 
village in that neighbourhood. They both brought me some 
provisions, consisting of maize, fowls, and some fruit, saying 
that they came sent by their respective lords to know what 
I wanted, and what was the cause of my visiting their coun- 
try. They did not come personally because they were afraid 
of being taken on board the ships and sent away, as the 
Christians who first landed on that shore had done with cer- 
tain countrymen of theirs. I told them how grieved I was 
to hear of that outrage, which had been perpetrated without 

1 The name of this chief is also written Montuval. 

2 Elsewhere Cecoael and Lecoalt. 

3 In the Vienna copy " Coabata." 



OF HERN AN CORTES. US 

my knowledge, promising them from that day that no injury 
or harm should be done unto them, and that I even intended 
to send for those who had been carried away, and restore 
them to their homes. May it please God that the licenciates at 
Hispaniola allow me to keep my engagement with those 
Indians ! though I very much fear that they will not send 
back to me those slaves taken by Moreno, but, on the con- 
trary, will find some expedient to palliate his crime, be- 
lieving, as I do, that the said bachelor acted according to 
instructions received from the Audiencia, and did nothing 
except by express orders. 

In answer to the question which those messengers put to 
me respecting my object in coming to that country, I told 
them that they ought to know how, about eight years before 
that time, I had arrived in the province of Culua, and how 
Muteczuma, then lord of the great city of Tenuxtitlan and 
of all that country, being informed by me of the greatness 
and power of your Majesty — to whom the universal world 
is subjected — and of my having been sent to visit this 
country to propagate the fame of your royal name, had re- 
ceived me very well and acknowledged at once what was 
due to your Majesty ; that all the other lords in the country 
had done the same. I then narrated to them that part of 
my doings which I thought most fit for the present object, 
and concluded by letting them know that my mission was to 
visit all and every one of the provinces of that great conti- 
nent, without omitting one, and to found, wherever I con- 
sidered it beneficial, towns and cities of Christians, who were 
to teach them the best mode of living for the preservation of 
their persons and property, as well as for the salvation of 
their souls. That this, and no other, was the cause of my 
coming, through which they might be certain no harm would 
result to them, but on the contrary much good, since all 
those who obeyed your Majesty's royal commands would be 
well treated and maintained in justice, whilst the rebels 



114 THE FIFTH LETTER 

should be severely punished. Many other things I told 
them to the same purpose, which, in order not to annoy 
your Majesty with too much writing, I shall omit, especially 
as they are not of great importance. 

I gave these messengers a few trifles, such as they generally 
hold in great esteem, though they have hardly any value 
among us, and they returned to their respective villages 
very happy and contented. And because I begged them 
when they went away to send me people who might help in 
levelling the site of the town, which was placed on a great 
mountain, they soon after returned with a number of men, 
and a sufficient quantity of fresh provisions. Yet with all this 
their chiefs came not to visit me. This I took no notice of, 
making-as if their coming were a matter quite indifferent to 
me, though I desired them to send messengers.;.*© all the 
neighbouring villages to announce what my intentions were, 
and what 1 had told them on a former occasion, and begged, 
that they would provide me with work-people for the new 
town. My request was complied with, and in a few days' 
time there came, from fifteen or sixteen villages or rather 
lordships in that vicinity, people enough to help us efficiently 
in our works, bringing with them a sufficient quantity of 
fiesh provisions to last us until the vessels I had sent to 
Hispaniola should return. 

About this time I despatched for home the three ships I had 
with me, besides another one which came afterwards and 
was bought by me, and I sent in tKem all the invalids and 
sick people of the expedition. One of the vessels arrived at 
a port of New Spain, and in her Was a letter of mine to the 
royal officers I had left in command 'during my absence, as 
well as to the municipalities of the different towns, inform- 
ing them of my operations and doings, and telling -them 
how I was under the necessity of delaying a little longer in 
those parts ; I recommended them particularly some of the 
matters left to their care, and offered my advice in others. 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 115 

To the master of this vessel I gave orders to return by way 
of Cozumel, an island on the way, and to pick up certain 
Spaniards whom one Valenzuela had abandoned in that 
place. These were reported to be more than sixty in number, 
and to have formed part of the vessel's crew which mutinied 
with Valenzuela and sacked the first settlement made on 
the coast by Christoval de Olid. The other vessel, which I 
bought last in the small bay adjoining our town, I sent to 
the island of Cuba and to the town of Trinidad for a cargo 
of salted meat, horses, and volunteers, with orders to return 
as quickly as they could. .A third was sent to Jamaica for 
the same purpose. The large caravel or brigantine, which 
I myself built (at Nito) I dispatched to Hispaniola, and 
in her was a servant of mine, bearer of letters for your 
Majesty, and for those licentiates (of the Audiencia) re- 
siding in the island. But, as it was found out afterwards, 
not one of those vessels reached her destination, because the 
one bound for Cuba and Trinidad was obliged by contrary 
winds to touch at Guaniguanico, and her crew had to go by 
land to the Havana, a distance of about fifty leagues, for a 
cargo. When this last mentioned vessel, the fir.st that re- 
turned, entered the port of Trujillo, I learned from her 
crew that the one sent to New Spain, after taking on board 
the people of Cozumel, had gone on shore near a cape on 
the coast of Cuba, called San Anton or Corrientes, every- 
thing on board of her being lost, and most of her crew 
drowned, including a cousin of mine, Juan de Avalos by 
name, who went in command of her, and the two Franciscan 
friars who had accompanied my expedition, and thirty-four 
more people, whose names they gave me in writing. The 
few saved from the shipwreck had wandered through the 
neighbouring mountains without knowing where to go, and 
had mostly died of starvation. Out of eighty-four living 
gouls only fifteen remained, who had arrived at that port of 
Guaniguanico, where my other ship was then at anchor. 



116 THE FIFTH LETTER 

There happened to be close at hand a sort of farm belonging 
to a Spaniard domiciliated at the Havana, where the said 
vessel was at the time taking in her cargo of provisions ; a 
circumstance which greatly contributed to the saving of 
those poor wretches, for they were immediately supplied 
with what they wanted. 

God only knows the sorrow I experienced at hearing of 
such a disastrous shipwreck ; for besides losing through it a 
number of friends, servants, and relations, besides a large 
stock of breastplates, muskets, crossbows, and other weapons, 
my despatches never reached your Majesty's hands, which 
was a thing of the greatest consequence to me, as I will 
show hereafter. 

The vessel bound for Jamaica and the one I sent to 
Hispaniola arrived at Trinidad in the island of Cuba, 
where they met with the licenciate Alonzo de Zuazo, whom 
I had left as chief justice, and with one of the governors of 
New Spain during my absence, and they found likewise in the 
port a vessel which those licenciates residing at Hispa- 
niola were on the point of despatching to New Spain, for 
the purpose of ascertaining whether the news reported of 
my death were true or not. However, as the people of the 
vessel fitted out by the oidors 1 knew that I was alive, they 
changed their course and arrived where I was; for having 
on board thirty-two horses, and some saddles fit for riding 
in the gineta or Moorish style, besides a certain quantity of 
provisions, they thought they might sell them better to me 
than anywhere else. 

By this vessel I received a letter from the said Alonzo 
Zuazo, informing me that among the officers of your Majesty 
in New Spain there had been great dissensions and scandals, 
the said officers having given out that I was dead ; in conse- 

1 Oidores, or auditors, were the judges composing the Audiencia or 
court of the island. Cortes calls them generally licenciados, because 
they were so graduated. 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 117 

quence of which, two of them had proclaimed themselves 
governors, making the people swear and acknowledge them 
as such. They had, moreover, imprisoned the said licenciate 
Alonzo Zuazo, and the two other crown officers, as well as 
Rodrigo de Paz, whom I had left in charge of my house and 
property. This they had completely confiscated, removing 
besides the alcaldes and judges nominated by me, and 
appointing others of their own party. Many other particu- 
lars the letter contained, which being too long to relate, I 
omit in this writing of mine, referring entirely to Zuazo's 
original, which accompanies this. 

Your Majesty may easily conceive what my feelings were 
on the receipt of such intelligence, especially when I heard 
of the ingratitude of those people, and the manner in which 
they rewarded my services to the crown ; pillaging my house 
and property, and committing other rash acts, unjustifiable 
even had I been dead ; for although they may give out 
as an excuse that I owe to the royal coffers more than sixty 
thousand castellanos of gold, they know as well as I do 
that I am no real debtor for that sum, but on the contrary 
the imperial treasury owes me one hundred and fifty thousand 
that I have spent out of my own pocket — and I may venture 
to add not altogether unprofitably — in your Majesty's service. 

My first thought, on hearing this news, was to sail in that 
very ship that brought me Zuazo's letter, and punish the 
guilty parties accordingly ; for now-a-days every man who is 
abroad and holds an office fancies that unless he does act in- 
dependently and on his own account he is no gentleman at 
all. 1 A similar thing, I hear, has just happened to Pedro Arias 
[Davila] with a captain of his whom he sent to Nicaragua, 
and who has of late completely thrown off his allegiance, as 
will hereafter infor.n your Majesty more at full. But on the 
other hand it was exceedingly painful to me to leave that 

1 Que si no hacen befa, no portun penacho, is the graphic expression 
used by Cortes, borrowing a simile of the old tournaments. 



118 THE FIFTH LETTER 

country' in the state it then was, for had I done so, I am 
certain that all the benefits hereafter to be derived from the 
settlement would have been irrevocably lost, whereas, on 
the contrary, I am persuaded that it will turn out in time to 
be in fertility and riches a second Culua ; for I have trust- 
worthy reports of very extensive and rich provinces, and of 
powerful chiefs ruling over them, and of one in particular, 
called Hueitapalan, 1 and in another dialect Xucutaco, 2 about 
which I possessed information six years since, having all 
this time made inquiries about it, and ascertained that it lies 
eight or ten days' march from that town of Trujillo, or 
rather between fifty and sixty leagues. So wonderful 
are the reports about this particular province, that even 
allowing largely for exaggeration, it will exceed Mexico 
in riches, and equal it in the largeness of its towns and 
villages, the density of its population, and the policy of its 
inhabitants. 

In this perplexity, and not knowing what resolution to 
take, 1 bethought me that no human action in this world can 
turn to good except it be guided by the hand of the divine 
and primary cause of all things created. I, therefore, 
ordered masses to be said, and processions of priests to be 
made, most humbly praying God that he would inspire me 
with the line of conduct most acceptable to Him ; and these 
pious exercises being continued a few days longer, after 
mature reflection, I resolved to put aside any other conside- 
ration, and start at once for Mexico in order to put a stop to 
the evils that afflicted this country. Leaving, therefore, as 
my lieutenant in the town of Trujillo, a cousin of mine, named 
Hernando de Saavedra, (brother of that Juan de Avalos, who 
was drowned in coming, to that place) and placing under his 

1 Thus written in all the copies, but I should suggest that Hueitapatlan 
should be read instead, this one appearing to me a more Indian termi- 
nation. 

2 The Vienna copy reads Axucutaco. 



OF HERN AN CORTES. 119 

orders thirty-five horse and about fifty foot ; giving him 
my instructions as to the manner in which he was to govern ; 
having likewise taken leave of some of the Indian chiefs who 
had by that time visited me, and seemed very well disposed 
and peaceable, I went on board the said vessel, with all my 
household servants ; after having sent orders to the people of 
Naco to follow along the shore the same route taken by 
Francisco de las Casas, that is to say the south coast, and 
come out at the place where Pedro de Alvarado was settled, 1 
that road being then quite known and secure, and the men 
in sufficient numbers not to fear any attack from the natives. 
I also sent certain instructions to the town called Xavidad de 
Nuestra Sefiora, and being already embarked and about to 
set sail, with the last of my anchors slung, the wind 
suddenly subsided, and my vessel could not clear the 
harbour. On the morning of next day news came that 
among the people I left settled in that town, there were 
certain rumours of disapproval of my conduct, and which it 
was to be feared might, after my departure, bring on some 
scandal and dissension. Hearing which, and seeing that I 
could not put to sea, I at once landed, and causing a legal 
inquiry to be made, punished the malefactors, and every 
thing was quiet again. 

Two days was I detained for want of a fair wind to leave 
the port, but on the third, a favourable breeze springing up, 
I again embarked, and set sail. I had, however only pro- 
ceeded two leagues on my voyage, when just as we were 
doubling a very long point in which the harbour terminates, 
the mainmast of my ship was split in two, and we were again 
obliged to return to port to have it mended. This operation 
lasted three days, at the end of which we again put to sea, 
with favourable weather. We had sailed for two nights and 
one day, and made fifty leagues or more, when we were 

1 That is to say, to Santiago de Guatemala, where Alvarado was sup- 



osed to be at the time. 



120 THE FIFTH LETTER 

suddenly assailed by contrary winds from the north; so strong 
and powerful was the gale, that our foremast broke short 
off, and I was the third time obliged, though with con- 
siderable trouble and difficulty, to return to port. Once 
within, we thanked God for His mercy, for certainly we had 
been on the point of shipwreck. We arrived, however, so 
tempest-tost and worn out by the sea, that we had neces- 
sarily to take some rest, and therefore, whilst the damage 
in the vessel was being repaired, I went on shore with all 
the crew. But when I reflected that having put to sea thrice 
with fine weather, I had been obliged as many times to return 
to the port, I began to think that God was not willing that I 
should leave that country in its present state. I was the 
more persuaded of this, that I learned that some of the Indian 
populations, whom 1 had left peaceably disposed, began about 
that time to stir and show signs of discontent. I again com- 
mended everything to the hands of the Almighty, ordered 
new processions, had masses said, and having reflected on the 
matter, I came to this conclusion : that by sending on that 
vessel, which I had destined for my passage to New Spain, 
with full powers to my cousin Francisco de las Casas, and 
letters for the corporations of the several towns, and for your 
Majesty's officers, blaming them for their misdeeds ; by send- 
ing back also some of the principal Mexican Indians I had 
with me, that they might certify to their countrymen of 
my being alive, the object I had in view might be attained, 
and the troubles in New Spain completely appeased. I took 
my measures accordingly, and prepared everything, although 
had I known at the time that the vessel I first sent was lost, 
and with her my despatches about the South Sea, I might 
perhaps have sent to Francisco de las Casas fuller instruc- 
tions than I did. 

The vessel, however, having sailed for New Spain, and my 
health being very indifferent at the time, owing to what I 
had suffered at sea, and from which I had not yet recovered, 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 121 

I was unable to explore the neighbouring districts, as I would 
otherwise have wished. I, therefore, remained at Trujillo, 
first because I expected every day the return of the vessels I 
had sent to the islands in search of provisions ; and secondly, 
to attend to various matters concerning the building of the 
new town ; but I ordered my lieutenant to go with about 
thirty horse and as many foot and overrun the districts which 
I had intended to visit. 

My men marched for five and thirty leagues through a 
beautiful valley, filled with many large and populous villages, 
abounding in all manner of native fruits, and well suited 
to grow any kind of cattle, as well as all the seeds and 
plants of our peninsula. They had no angry encounter with 
the natives ; on the contrary, having spoken to them through 
the interpreters, by means of those Indians in the neigh- 
bourhood who were already our friends, and accompanied 
the expedition, they succeeded in gaining their good will. In 
consequence of this no less than twenty chiefs of large vil- 
lages came to visit me, and with great willingness offered 
themselves for subjects and vassals of your Majesty, promis- 
ing to obey your royal commands, as they have since done, and 
are still doing, for to the very day of my departure I had 
always some of them with me, those who went away being 
immediately replaced by others who came, and brought pro- 
visions to the town, and did everything to be agreeable to 
us. May it please God to maintain them in their good will 
towards us, and guide them to those ends which are the con- 
stant object of your Majesty's wishes and mine — ends which 
I have no doubt they will reach, for things that begin well very 
rarely turn out amiss, and in the present case every good may 
be expected from the natives of those parts unless those who 
are called to command over them and administer justice treat 
them badly. 

The two provinces of Papayeca and Champagua, which, 
as I have said before, were the first to offer us their friend- 



WZ THE FIFTH LETTER 

ship, and to become your Majesty's vassals, were precisely 
those in which some disturbance was apparent at the time 
of my first embarkation. Seeing me come back, they were 
somewhat afraid of me, and I had to send messengers of peace 
to reassure them. Some of the natives of Champagua then 
came to see me, not the chiefs ; but as the majority of them 
kept aloof, and removed from the villages their wives, their 
sons, and their property, it was evident to me that they had 
no confidence in us. Among those who came daily, there 
were several who took service and worked in the town; 
these I strongly requested to return to their homes, but they 
never would, saying, " not to-day but to-morrow." But as that 
to-morrow never came, I managed to lay hands on three of 
their chiefs, named Chiwhuytl, Poto, and Mondoreto, and 
haying imprisoned them, I named them a certain period of 
time during which they were to come down from their moun- 
tains and return to their villages as before, threatening, if 
they did not, to have them chastised as rebels. They all 
promised to do it, and I set them free in consequence, and I 
must say that they have since fulfilled their word, for the 
natives have returned, and they live in security and peace, 
doing whatever service is required from them. 

Those of Papayeca, however, never would consent to come 
back, particularly their chiefs, who always kept the people 
with them in the mountains, whilst their villages continued 
deserted ; although frequently requested and summoned by 
me to return to their homes, they never would. Seeing which, 
I sent to the very heart of their country a troop of horse, 
and some infantry, besides a number of Indians, who had 
been reduced and served under our orders. This force, com- 
manded by one of my lieutenants, one night surprised one 
of the two chiefs of the country, named Pizacura, and having 
asked him why he was so disobedient and rebellious, refusing 
to comply with my orders, he answered that he would have 
returned to his village before, had it not been for a comrade 



Or HERNAN CORTES. 123 

ais named Mazatl, who had more influence than himself 
on the community, and would not consent to it, but that 
if they let him go, he would betray Mazatl's movements, so 
that he might soon be taken prisoner, and if he wereoncein our 
hands, and hanged, he had no doubt all the people of his dis- 
trict would peaceably return to their villages, for if he had 
no opposition on Mazatl's part, he would easily induce 
all the natives of that province to do what we wanted. 
My lieutenant then set Pizacura at liberty, who did what 
he promised, and was the cause of greater misfortunes to his 
people than we might then have imagined ; for certain friendly 
Indians from among the natives of that country tracked the 
said Mazatl to the spot where he had taken refuge, and guided 
there some of my Spaniards, who secured his person. Hav- 
ing notified to him what his comrade Pizacura said about 
him, he was enjoined to make his people come down from the 
mountains, and return to their villages within a short period 
of time, which was fixed ; but so obstinate and rebellious 
was he that he could never be persuaded to give his consent. 
He was accordingly tried in due form, and sentenced to 
death, which was publicly executed on his person. It 
proved a great admonition for the rest of the natives, for im- 
mediately after most of them returned to their homes, and 
there is now in the province no village that is not per- 
fectly secure, the natives living in peace with their families 
and property, except, however, those of Papayeca, which 
never could be entirely reduced, as I said before. 

After the release of Pizacura, legal proceedings were 
instituted against the inhabitants of that province, and war 
was carried on in their territory, about one hundred of them 
being taken prisoners and made slaves. Pizacura himself 
was of their number. I had him tried, but did not sentence 
him to death, although he deserved it, and brought him 
with me to this city, together with two other chiefs of vil- 
1 That is of Papayeca. 



124 THE FIFTH LETTER 

lages not entirely reduced, that they might see with their 
own eyes how things were managed in this New Spain, how 
we treated the natives, and how they served us, and might 
report to their countrymen on their return. Pizacura died 
of illness ; the other two chiefs are doing well, and I intend 
sending them back on the first opportunity that occurs. 

With the imprisonment, however, of this Pizacura, and of 
another youth, who seemed to be his natural heir, with the 
punishment inflicted by those hundred and odd Indians, who 
were made slaves, the province was completely pacified, and 
when I left that country all the villages paid tribute, and 
the inhabitants were divided between the Spaniards, serving 
them, as it appeared, with perfect good will. 

About this time there came to the town of Trujillo a cap- 
tain with about twenty men of those I had left at Naco 
under Gonzalo de Sandoval, or belonging to the company of 
Francisco Hernandez, whom Pedro Arias Davila, governor 
for your Majesty in those parts, had sent towards the pro- 
vince of Nicaragua. From them I learned how a captain of 
the said Francisco Hernandez had arrived at Naco with about 
forty men, between horse and foot, with a view to reach the 
port in the bay of Saint Andrew, where he expected to find 
that bachelor Moreno, who, as I have already informed your 
Majesty in another part of this letter, had been sent thither 
by the judges of Hispaniola. The said bachelor, as it 
appears, had written a letter to Francisco Hernandez, in- 
viting him to revolt against his own superior and governor, 
just as he had incited the people left by Gil Gonzalez and 
Francisco de las Casas to revolt against me ; and in conse- 
quence whereof that captain came there to see him ou be- 
half of Francisco Hernandez, and concert the best manner 
of shaking off the allegiance due to his governor, and give 
it instead to those judges., in Hispaniola, as it appeared 
from certain letters he had with him. 

I sent those people back to their settlement, giving them 



OF HERN AN CORTES. 125 

a lett6r tor Francisco Hernandez and his men, and particu- 
larly for some of the captains in his company whom I knew, 
telling them how reproachable and bad their conduct had 
been in allowing themselves to be cheated by that bachelor, 
assuring them that your Majesty would be very angry at 
what they had done, and many other things to that purpose 
which I thought might draw them and their captains from 
the wrong path in which they were engaged. One 
of the causes they alleged for their justification was their 
being at such a distance from the residence of the said 
Pedro Arias Davila, that they could not be provided with 
the commonest things, except with great difficulty and cost ; 
and that they were always in want of commodities and pro- 
visions from Spain, which could be more easily obtained 
through the settlements I had made on that coast ; adding 
that the said bachelor had written to them to say that all the 
country now acknowledged the authority of the Audiencia, 
and that he would soon return with plenty of men and pro- 
visions to confirm the said obedience. I told them that I 
would give orders to those settlements to furnish them with 
everything they might want, and to treat them amicably in 
their trade transactions, since they, and all of us, were 
equally your Majesty's vassals, and actually employed in the 
royal service ; but that all these offers of mine were only to 
be understood in case of their continuing in the obedience 
of their governor (Pedro Arias Davila), and not otherwise. 
And in order to show them that I was in earnest, and be- 
cause they told me that what they most wanted was shoes 
for their horses and iron tools to work in the mines, I gave 
them two mules of mine loaded with such things to take 
back with them, and when they arrived at the settlement of 
Hernando de Sandoval, 1 that captain gave them two more 
mules of mine also loaded with iron work and tools. 

After the departure of those Spaniards, there came to me, 
1 Elsewhere called Gonzalo, see above, p. 125. 



]£6 THE FIFTH LETTER 

from the province of Huilacho, 1 which is about sixty-five 
leagues from the town of Trujillo, certain Indians who had on 
a previous occasion sent me messengers offering themselves as 
subjects and vassals of your Majesty. These people com- 
plained that a number of Spaniards, about twenty horse and 
forty foot, followed by many Indians from other provinces, 
who were their friends, had come suddenly to their villages* 
and were daily inflicting on them every kind of outrage, 
taking away from them their wives and children and robbing 
their property. They begged me to remedy the evils they 
were suffering, reminding me that, when they offered them- 
selves as the vassals of your Majesty, I had promised them 
every help and protection against those who wronged them. 
Some time after, Hernando de Sandoval, my cousin, whom 
I had left as my lieutenant in that part of the country, and 
who was at that time pacifying the province of Papayeca, sent 
to me two Spaniards belonging to that very party about whom 
the Indians of Huilacho had complained. They had come* 
they said, by orders of their captain to lookout for the town 
of Trujillo, 2 having been told by the natives that it was close 
by, and that they would come without any fear, all the 
country round it being at peace with us. From these 
people I learned that the marauding party, commanded by 
one Gabriel de Rojas, belonged to the division of the above 
mentioned Francisco Hernandez, and that they had come, 
in search of that port where I then was. Having thus 
ascertained who the guilty parties were, I sent those two 
Spaniards along with the natives of Huilacho who had made 
the complaint, and one of my alguazils, to Gabriel de Rojas, 

1 Written also Huilancho and Huilcacho, evidently the same. 

2 Not far from Trujillo is the valley of Olancho, through which flows 
a river called Guayape, famous for the quantity of gold diggings on its 
banks ; even now the best gold is procured from those parts. In some 
of the maps I have consulted, and especially in that appended to Morelet's 
Travels, a place called Orlancho is given, which might well be the one 
here intended. 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 127 

enjoining him forthwith to quit the province, and restore to 
the natives the property taken from them, as well as the 
women and children he had made captives of. I moreover 
wrote him a letter, saying that if he wanted anything, he had 
only to let me know, and I would immediately supply him 
and his men with it, provided always I had it at hand. 

No sooner did Gabriel de Rojas read the summons I 
sent him through my alguazil, than in obedience to my 
orders, he quitted that province, and went elsewhere ; at 
which the natives were much satisfied, though some time 
after they again came to me complaining that after the de- 
parture of my alguazil they had been visited by the same, 
or another, marauding party, who had again taken some of 
their people into captivity. This time I wrote to the above 
mentioned captain, Francisco Hernandez, offering to supply 
him and his men with anything they might want and I 
could procure, on condition, however, that he would main- 
tain himself in obedience to his governor, Pedro Arias, and 
not molest those Indians who were living peaceably under 
my rule, and sure as I was by making him such commenda- 
tions, to promote the interests of your majesty. How far 
the said captain has complied with my request since I left 
that coast, I am unable to say, but I learned from the al- 
guazil I sent to Gabriel de Rojas, and from those who ac- 
companied him, that one day the said Gabriel de Rojas re- 
ceived a letter from Francisco Hernandez, bidding him re- 
turn in all haste with his men, as among those remaining 
with him much dissension had arisen, two of his captains, 
named Soto and Andres Garabito, having refused to obey him 
on the plea that he himself was about to shake off the alle- 
giance due to Pedro Arias. Matters, however, remained in 
such a state that a split was inevitable, from which great 
evils might be apprehended for the Spaniards, as well as 
for the natives of that country. I leave it for your majesty 
to consider how much harm these riots and discord may do 



128 THE FIFTH LETTER 

to the royal interests, and how necessary it is to punish 
with severity those who promote and are the cause of them. 
Such being my firm belief, and knowing what service I 
might render your majesty, if I succeeded in putting down 
so great an evil, I decided to go in person to Nicaragua. I 
was, therefore, preparing everything for my intended expe- 
dition, and opening a road through certain mountains I had 
to traverse, when the vessel sent by me to New Spain 
entered the port of Trujillo. There was on board of her a 
cousin of mine, named fray Diego de Altamirano, a friar of 
the order of Saint Francis ; from what he himself told me, 
and from the letters he brought, I learned the many dis- 
turbances, scandals, and dissensions which had arisen, and 
were still existing at Mexico, between the royal officers, 
whom I had left to govern during my absence ; and how 
necessary it was that I should immediately repair thither, in 
order to stop, if possible, the progress of the evil. I was, 
in consequence, obliged to give up all idea of going to 
Nicaragua, and returning, as I had intended, the way of the 
South Sea, in doing which I firmly believe that much ser- 
vice to God first, and afterwards to your majesty, might have 
been done, owing to the many extensive and rich provinces 
that lie betwixt, and which, though reduced and at peace for 
the most part, might have been confirmed in their vassalage 
by my thus going through them, especially those of Otlatan 
and Guatemala, where Pedro de Alvarado always resided, 
and which, having rebelled in consequence of various offences 
done to them by the Spaniards, have never since become 
peaceable, but on the contrary have done, and are still doing, 
much harm to the Spaniards settled in their neighbourhood, 
and to their Indian friends. For your Majesty must know 
that the country there is very broken, and the population 
very dense, and the people so warlike and brave, and at the 
same time so trained in all kinds of warfare, offensive as 
well as defensive, that they have invented pits and other 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 129 

engines to kill the horses ; and although the said Pedro de 
Alvarado has never ceased making war upon them with up- 
wards of 200 horse and 500 foot, all Spaniards, besides 
5,000, and at other times even 10,000 Indians, he has hitherto 
been unable to reduce them under your Majesty's rule, but, 
on the contrary, they become every day stronger through 
the people who join them. I believe, however, that if, God 
permitting, I were to go among them, I could, by mild treat- 
ment or otherwise, bring them to a knowledge of what 
they owe to your Majesty ; for some provinces of this New 
Spain, which rose in arms during my absence, owing to bad 
treatment received from the Spaniards, and against which 
marched no less than one hundred and twenty horse, and 
300 foot, with a considerable train of artillery, beside many 
thousand Indian auxiliaries, all under the command of the 
veedor, who then governed in Mexico, not only persisted in 
their rebellion, but defeated our army several times ; whereas 
with a simple message, that I sent them on my return, the 
principal inhabitants of that province, Uttatlan 1 by name, 
came and explained to me the cause of their rising ; which 
seemed to me just enough, namely, that the Spaniard to 
whom they had been given in charge had burnt alive eight 
of their principal chiefs, five of them having died on the 
spot, and the remaining three a few days after ; and although 
they had demanded reparation and justice, it had not been 
granted to them. I consoled them and treated them in such 
a manner that they went away satisfied and contented, being 
at the moment I write as quiet and peaceful as they were 
before my departure for Honduras. I also have reasons to 
believe that other Indian villages in the province of Coaza- 
coalco, which are in the same rebellious mood, on hearing 
of my arrival, and without my sending messengers to them, 
wiil become quiet and peaceable. 

I have already, in another part of my narrative, most 
1 Written also Coatlan. 



130 THE FIFTH LETTER 

Catholic Majesty, alluded to certain small islands, called L6& 
Guenejos, opposite the port of Honduras, some- of which are 
entirely deserted, owing to the several landings which the 
people of the islands have effected in them for the purpose 
of making slaves of the inhabitants. Some, of them,, how- 
ever, still preserve a population, although scanty ; and as I 
was informed that both at Cuba and at Jamaica, they had just 
fitted out an expedition to complete the devastation of the 
land and carry away as slaves the few inhabitants that re- 
mained, I sent a caravel with orders to look out for the 
Cubans, and request them in your Majesty's name not to 
land in those islands and harm the inhabitants, because I 
intended to reduce them by mild treatment to your Majesty's 
service, having heard through some who had come on the 
mainland that they were peaceably disposed. The said 
caravel met in one of the islands, called Huititla, another 
caravel belonging to the people of Cuba, and the commander 
of which was one Rodrigo de Merlo. The captain of mine 
found means to bring him to my presence with all the 
people he had taken captive. These I immediately released 
and sent back to their homes, and did not proceed criminally 
against the master of the vessel, because he showed me the 
written permission he had from the governor of Cuba, who 
had been properly authorised by the judges residing atHis- 
paniola. I, therefore, dismissed him and his crew, without 
doing them any more harm than setting at liberty the slaves 
they had taken ; but the captain and most of those who came 
in his company, liking the country much, did not return to 
Cuba, and settled in that province, becoming citizens of one 
or other of the towns I had founded on that coast. 

The chiefs of those islands, seeing the good service I had 
done them, and knowing also by those of their countrymen 
who were on the mainland how well they were treated, came 
to thank me for the benefits received, and offered them- 
selves as subjects and vassals of your Highness, asking me to 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 131 

point out to them those things in which they could be 
useful to me and my people. I ordered them, in your High- 
ness's name, to cultivate their fields as well as they could, for 
in reality they cannot be of any other use to us. And so 
they went away, taking back with them for each of those 
islands a written order of mine, notifying to the Spaniards 
who might arrive there, that they were to be considered as 
your Highness's vassals, and in no manner to be molested. 
They asked me besides for a Spaniard to reside with them 
in each of the islands, and although I could not then see 
to the matter, owing to the shortness of my departure, I left 
it for Hernando de Saavedra, my lieutenant, to provide, to- 
gether with other things. 

All matters being arranged, I went on board the ship that 
brought me the news of this city, and in her, and in two 
more vessels, which I had then in the port, embarked some 
of the people who had accompanied me in that expedition. 
We were only twenty in number, with our horses, because 
the greater part of my people preferred to settle in those 
towns, and the rest were already waiting for me on the road, 
believing that I would take the land route. I sent them a 
message to proceed on their march, informing them of my 
intended departure by sea and the cause of it. They have 
not yet arrived, but I have certain news of their coming. 

All things concerning the administration of the new towns 
being thus provided for (though not so firmly as I could have 
wished, and as would have suited the royal service, which 
caused me considerable uneasiness and regret), I set sail 
with the three ships on the 25th day of April. At first my 
navigation was attended with such luck that four days after 
my departure I found myself at 150 leagues from the port of 
Chalchicuela. 1 There I was assailed by a very strong gale, 
which did not let me proceed on my voyage. Thinking that 

1 This was the Indian name for the spot where the town of Vera Cruz 
was founded. 



132 THE FIFTH LETTER 

the wind would subside, I kept at sea a day and a night, 
but the vveather became so rough that I was compelled to 
make for the island of Cuba, anchoring six days after in 
the port of the Havana, where I landed, and was very well 
received by the inhabitants, some of whom were my friends 
since the time I resided among them. They all rejoiced at 
my coming, and I was pleased to see them again. As the 
vessels had suffered much, and were considerably knocked 
about, it was deemed necessary to have them overhauled, 
which operation kept me ten days in that place ; I even was 
obliged to buy another vessel which was in the port, 
being careened, and left mine there because she leaked con- 
siderably. 

The day after my arrival at La Havana, a vessel entered 
the port coming from New Spain ; on the second day there 
came another, and a third the day after. 1 learned from 
them all that the country was at peace, and that security 
and tranquillity had returned since the death of the factor 
and veedor, though they told me there had been some 
slight riots, which had been put down, and their promoters 
punished. I was delighted to hear the news, especially as 
I *vas afraid that my forced return to Trujillo and consequent 
delay at that town might have aggravated the evils and dis- 
sensions of which Mexico was long the theatre. 

Having written, 1 though briefly, to your Majesty, I sailed 
from the Havana on the 16th of May, taking with me about 
thirty individuals, who had come secretly from this place, 
and in eight days reached the port of Chalchicuela. I could 
not go in, owing to a sudden change of the weather, but re- 
mained outside about two leagues off. That very day, when 
night came on, having manned the boat of my ship, as well 
as a brigantine which we had found abandoned at sea, I made 
for the shore, landed without difficulty, and proceeded on foot 
to the town of Medellin, distant four leagues from the point 
1 This, like many other of Cortes' letters, must have been lost. 



OF HEKNAN CORTES. 133 

of my landing; and without being seen or heard by any liv- 
ing creature in the place, went straight to thank Almighty 
God for his favours. The people of the town, however, soon 
heard of my coming, and were greatly rejoiced at seeing me, 
as I was glad to see them. That very night I despatched 
messengers to this city, as well as to all other cities and 
towns in the land, informing them of my arrival, and making 
certain provisions which I had considered necessary to pro- 
mote your Sacred Majesty's interests and the good of the 
land ; and in order to take some re6t and recover from 
the fatigues of my long journey, stayed there eleven days, 
during which time I was visited by many chiefs and 
other principal persons, natives of these parts, who all seemed 
rejoiced at my coming- I then started for this city, and was 
on the road fifteen days, receiving all the time the visits and 
congratulations of the natives, some of whom came from a dis- 
tance of upwards of eighty leagues, having previously placed 
their couriers on the road to be informed of my arrival, which 
they expected. And so they flocked to me from all parts of 
the country, far and wide, and they shed tears with me, and 
said many affectionate and trying words, telling me what they 
had suffered during my absence, and how badly they had been 
treated ; and this they related with such emphasis and feeling 
that it broke the hearts of all those who listened to their 
narrative. And although, of all the complaints which these 
Indians made to me of the injustice done to them, it would 
be rather difficult to give your Majesty a full account, so 
great are they in number and so aggravating in their cir- 
cumstances, 1 might still point out a few well worthy of 
your Majesty's notice, but I reserve them for a better occa- 
sion, to be related by word of mouth. 

On my arrival at this city, both Spaniards and natives con- 
gregated from all parts of the land, and received me with as 
much joy, and as many signs of happiness, as if I had been 
their own father. The royal treasurer and the master- 



134 THE FIFTH LETTER 

accountant came out to meet me at the head of a considerable 
troop of horsemen, and in good order, showing the same signs 
of goodwill and contentment which the others had shown. I 
went, preceded by them, to the church and monastery of St. 
Francis, to return thanks to the Lord for having brought me, 
after so many fatigues and dangers, safe among my own 
people, and for having permitted that I should find this city, 
once so disturbed by civil discord, now enjoying every peace 
and security. I stayed six days at the convent and with the 
friars, until I had confessed all my sins, after which I went to 
my residence in the city. 

Two days before my departure from the monastery, a mes- 
senger came from Medellin, announcing the arrival at the 
port of that town of certain vessels ; and it was rumoured 
that in one of them there came, by your Majesty's command, 
a judge of inquiry. My informers added that they could 
not tell me what the orders and instructions of the said 
magistrate could be. I immediately thought that your 
Catholic Majesty, knowing full well the disturbances, riots, 
and disasters caused in this country by the very officers whom 
I left to command in my name, and not being informed of 
my return, had naturally sent the said magistrate to inquire 
into the cause of such evils. God knows how much pleased 
I was to think that such might be the cause of his coming 
here, for it would have been exceedingly painful for me to 
be a judge in such matters ; because, injured and illtreated 
as I had been, and my property destroyed by these tyrants, 
it seemed to me that any sentence of mine, however mild 
and just, might be reckoned by the evil-inclined as partial 
and dictated by passion, a thing of all others which I most 
detest ; though, from what I have shown in all the acts of 
my life, it seems to me that I could never have been so 
severe as their criminal deeds required. I, therefore, des- 
patched in all haste a messenger to that port of Medellin, to 
know whether my surmise was true, ordering the lieutenant 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 135 

and alcaldes of the place to receive and honour the said magis- 
trate and his retainers, whatever his commission might be ; 
and, since he came in your Majesty's name, to have him pro- 
perly lodged and entertained at a house which I had in 
the place, giving him and his people anything they might 
want. This, however, as I afterwards learned, he would not 
accept. 

On the day after the departure of my messenger, which 
happened to be the festival -of Saint John, as I was wit- 
nessing bull-fights, joustings with reeds, and other games 
suited to the occasion, another messenger arrived from 
Medellin, bringing me a letter from the said magistrate, and 
another one from your sacred Majesty, by which I understood 
the object of his coming, and how your catholic Majesty had 
sent him to make inquiries into my acts during the time that 
I have been governing this country. Great was my satis- 
faction at hearing that your Majesty so deigned to look into 
my merits or deserts, and I also felt very grateful at the 
benevolent terms in which your Highness announoed your 
royal intention and readiness to remunerate my small ser- 
vices. For both these favours I kiss one hundred thousand 
times your catholic Majesty's royal feet, and may God, our 
Lord, permit that I repay with my blood some portion of 
the mercies so conferred upon me, and that your Majesty 
may be persuaded of my sincerity in expressing such a 
wish, for this alone would be sufficient reward for all my 
services. 

In the letter which the magistrate himself, whose name 
was Luis Ponce, wrote to me, I was informed that he was 
on the point of leaving for this city, and as there are two 
principal roads leading to it, and he did not state which 
of them he intended to follow, I sent to each of them ser- 
vants of my household to wait upon him, and show him the 
way. The said Luis Ponce, however, travelled in such 
haste, that although my orders were executed with all pos- 



136 THK FIFTH LETTER 

sible dispatch, my people met him twenty leagues from this 
city, and, although he received my messengers, as I am told, 
with due courtesy, and was glad to see them, he would not 
accept their services. At this I was sorry, because, owing 
to his quick travelling, he well needed the assistance that 
was offered to him. as I have afterwards been informed ; but, 
on the other hand, I was glad, because the refusal seemed 
to come from an honest and upright magistrate, about to 
enter upon office and power, and who, coming to en- 
quire into the acts of my administration, was unwilling, by 
accepting my offers of service, to bring suspicion on himself. 
He arrived one evening two leagues from this city, and passed 
the night there, and after that I had prepared everything for 
his reception the next morning, sent me word not to come 
out to him, as he intended to dine where he had slept, but 
to send him a chaplain to say a mass to him, which I did. 
Suspecting that he did all this to avoid any public recep- 
tion, I was on my guard, but he came so early in the morn- 
ing, that, although I was quick enough in the saddle, with 
my people, I met him in the centre of the city, whence we 
rode together to the monastery of Saint Francis, and heard 
our mass. This being done, I said to him that if he was 
pleased to present there the royal instructions, of which he 
was the bearer, he could do so, as all the members of the muni- 
cipal corporation, as well as the treasurer, master-accountant, 
and other of your Majesty's officers, were there with 
me ; but he would not, saying that on the next day he 
would exhibit them in due form. And so he did, for on the 
morning after, when we were all congregated together in the 
cathedral — the dean and chapter being present also — he, 
the said Luis Ponce, exhibited the royal instructions, which I 
and all those who assisted at the ceremony, held in our hands, 
took to our lips, and placed on our heads, as is customary 
in such cases, promising to obey and execute the prescrip- 
tions therein contained, as coming from our legitimate 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 137 

master and natural lord. All the regidors then put down 
their wands, and resigned their offices, all the other cere- 
monies being complied with, as your Majesty will see by the 
official acts drawn on the occasion by the municipal notary. 
This being done, the object of Luis Ponce's commission was 
publicly announced through the city, and read in the market 
square by the public crier, purporting that he was sent by your 
sacred Majesty to inquire into the acts of my administration. 

I was seventeen days at Mexico without being asked 
a single question respecting my conduct as governor, 
during which time the said Luis Ponce, the magistrate 
and judge of inquiry, was taken with illness, he, and 
almost every one of those who came in that fleet ; and 
the disease increasing, it was God's pleasure that he should 
die of it, together with upwards of thirty individuals, who 
had accompanied him from Spain. In that number were 
two Dominican friars who also came with hjm, and, more- 
over, at the date of my writing, there are still many people- 
labouring under the same distemper, and in great danger of 
death ; for the disease they brought with them in that fleet 
has proved almost equal to pestilence, having since attacked 
some inhabitants of this city, two of whom died with the 
same symptoms, whilst there are still many who have not yet 
recovered entirely. 

After Luis Ponce's death, his burial and funeral being 
performed with the solemnity and honours due to a person 
of his importance, and who had come on your Majesty's 
errand, I was earnestly requested by the municipal corpora- 
tion of this city, as well as by all the deputies of towns, who 
happened to be present, again to take into my hands the 
government of this country, in the same manner and with 
the same authority that I had held it on a former occasion. 
This they begged me to do in your Majesty's name, expound- 
ing various reasons why I ought to do it, and showing the 
inconveniences and evils that might result from my non- 



138 THE FIFTH LETTER 

acceptance, as your sacred Majesty will see by the copj.of 
their petition and other papers- which accompany this*' I 
answered them in the negative, as will also appear from the 
said copies, excusing' myself for various motives; but they 
insisted and renewed their petitions more strongly than evsr, 
showing the great evils that might ensiie; if I did not grant 
their request. I still held good, and have since firmly main- 
tained the same purpose, though I imagine that there .may- 
be: reasons why I ought to accede to their demands. Bul^ 
wishing above all things that your Majesty should be con- 
vinced'of my purity and fidelity towards the royal service, 
this being the chief aim of all my actions, and knowing that 
without your Majesty's esteem, all the good things of this, 
world are nothing to me, and that I would rather not live in/ 
it,— r-I have always put aside any consideration that might 
tempt • my acceptance ; and not only have I done this, but 
have maintained with all my force in his,' office a certain 
licentiate, called Marcos de Aguilar, who/m the said Luis 
Ponce brought with him from Spain r a1s his alcalde mayor 
(chief justice), and I have also requested/ and entreated hint 
to prosecute the inquiry into my acts to the end. This the 
said licentiate has refused to do, alleging that he has not 
sufficient powers for it ; at which I am exceedingly sorry, for 
there is nothing in this world I desire so much — and that 
not without some reason — as to have your Majesty properly 
informed of my virtues and sins, if I have committed any, 
sure as I am that when your Majesty has taken full cogni- 
zance .of my acts, I cannot fail to be amply remunerated, 
not indeed on account of my past services, small as they are, 
but beca'use your Majesty is bound to be munificent towards 
one who, like me, has served you so well and with so much 
fidelity. 

I, therefore, humbly beseech your Majesty, with all the 
earnestness of which I am capable, that this matter of the 
inquiry to be instituted into my acts, should not remain in 



OF HERN AN CORTES. 139 

suspense, and, as it were, under the veil of simulation, but, 
on the contrary, that all the good or bad part of my actions 
should be proclaimed and made public ; because this being 
for me a point of honour to obtain which I. have gone 
through so many trials, and exposed my. person to so many 
dangers, God forbid that the foul tongues of .- envious and 
wicked people, should make me lose that which I most prize 
in the world. I, therefore, again entreat your Majesty not to 
consent that such a thing should take place ; I ask for no 
other mercy in payment of my services, nor do I care to live 
without. 

In my opinion, most catholic Majesty, since |he. time I 
entered into these transactions, I always have ' Had many 
powerful rivals and enemies ; yet, however strong their 
iniquity and malice, they have never been sufficiently strong 
to darken the notoriety of my services, and my constant 
fidelity. Seeing, however, that they could not effectually 
injure my reputation, those enemies of mine have sought 
two ways, by which, as it would appear, they have thrown 
a sort of mist before the eyes of your Majesty, and caused 
your Majesty to deviate from the catholic and holy purpose — 
always acknowledged by your Majesty — of remunerating my 
services. One of these ways is to accuse me of the crime of 
lese-majeste , pretending that I do not obey your Majesty's 
royal commands, and hold not this newly conquered land 
in the royal name, but under my tyrannical sway, giving as a 
£roof of their calumnies various false and diabolical reasons, 
entirely the inventions of their depraved minds. Yet were 
the said wicked people to look truly into my acts, and to be 
made impartial judges of my conduct, they could not. da less 
than proclaim the very reverse of what their foul tongues 
have spread against me ; for until this present day there 
has never been, nor shall be in future, any letter or command 
of your Majesty that has not been punctually obeyed and 
faithfully executed to the letter. 



140 THE FIFTH LETTER 

At this very moment the iniquity and malice of those who 
have thus calumniated me have become more manifest than 
ever ; because had things been as they report, I should cer- 
tainly not have gone six hundred leagues from this city, 
through uninhabited districts and over dangerous roads, leav- 
ing the government of the country in the hands of those among 
your Majesty's officers whom I considered most zealous in 
the royal service—though their deeds did not certainly cor- 
respond to the idea and estimation I had of them. 

The other way which these people have found of attack- 
ing my reputation is to say that the greater part of the na- 
tives of this country are my slaves, and that I treat them as 
such, and profit by their service and their work, by means 
of which I have amassed a large sum of money, in gold and 
silver, which I hoard up ; that I have spent without neces- 
sity more than sixty thousand ounces of gold out of your 
Majesty's revenue, and have not remitted to Spain as much 
gold as was due to the royal treasury, keeping and retaining 
it with me under specious pretences and for purposes which 
I cannot accomplish. I really believe that such rumours 
about me being current, the said wicked individuals 
have not failed to give them a certain specious colouring, 
though it cannot be such as to give them the appearance of 
truth, and I trust that the slightest approach of the touch- 
stone will be sufficient to discover the falsity of the metal. 

As to their saying that I possess a large portion of the 
land, I own that this is true, and I have likewise had for my 
share a good sum and quantity of gold ; but I maintain that all 
I have received has been insufficient to relieve me from 
misery and poverty, being at the moment I write in debt for 
upwards of five hundred ounces of gold, without possessing 
one single dollar towards it; because, if the yieldings have 
been considerable, the expenses have been greater, having 
consumed very large sums, not indeed in buying lands, or 
iounding entails, or acquiring any sort of property for myself 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 141 

and heirs, but in extending and enlarging your Highness's 
patrimonial rights in these parts through the conquest and 
acquisition of so many kingdoms and empires, achieved at my 
own peril and risk, and with infinite trouble and danger of 
my person. This part, however, of my services their foul 
and viperous tongues shall never touch or impair; for only 
by looking at my account-books it will be found that up- 
wards of 300,000 ounces of gold have been spent out of my 
own fortune in such conquests and acquisitions. It is true 
that when that resource was exhausted, and I had no more 
money of my own to spend, I availed myself of the sixty 
thousand gold ounces belonging to your Majesty, not indeed 
for my own personal use, for they never passed through my 
hands, but to be paid on my warrants for the cost and ex- 
penses of these latter conquests. Whether the said monies 
have been rightly spent or not, it is not for me to say, the 
facts being patent and known to every one. 

As to what the said calumniators say about my not having 
sent to your Majesty the rents and produce of this country, 
I scarcely need show how false the accusation is, for I main- 
tain — and it is a fact — that during the few years that have 
elapsed since I first set my foot in this country, more 
treasure has been remitted to Spain from it than from all the 
islands and Tierra Firme put together, though discovered 
and peopled more than thirty years ago at great cost and 
expense to the Catholic kings, your predecessors. Your 
Majesty, however, has had no disbursements to make with 
regard to this my conquest ; for not only have I sent to Spain 
whatever sums were due to the royal treasury, but I have on 
many occasions presented your Majesty with what was 
really my own, and so have most of the people who serve 
under my orders. So when I first wrote to your Majesty 
giving the news of my landing, and sent along with the 
letter Alonso Hernandez Portocarrero, and Francisco de 
Montejo, not only did I offer to your Majesty the fifth of the 



142 THE FIFTH LETTER 

spoil made on that occasion, but I delivered also what rightly 
belonged to me and my companions, considering it was 
but just that your Majesty should have the first-fruits of 
this conquest. When this city of Mexico was taken the 
first time, the Emperor Muteczuma being still alive, your 
Majesty received thirty thousand castellanos of gold, as your 
fifth of what was then obtained and made into ingots ; and 
although the jewels and other valuable things were to be 
divided also, so that every one of us should have his share 
in the spoil, we were all of us, my men as well as myself, of 
opinion that there ought to be no division whatever, and 
that the whole of such spoils, amounting in value to five 
hundred castellanos of gold, should be forthwith sent to your 
Majesty. True it is that everything, money and jewels, was 
lost when the people of this city rose in arms against us, and 
expelled us from it, owing to Narvaez's landing, but that 
mishap, if deserved through my sins, was certainly not owing 
to any negligence on my part. When, however, this city 
was taken for the second time, and its territory completely 
reduced under your Majesty's sway, the same course was 
followed. Of the gold that was smelted one fifth was put 
aside for the imperial treasury, and besides I persuaded my 
men to give up their share in the jewels and other valuable 
objects, amounting to a sum no less considerable than the 
one set out on the previous occasion. All these things, gold 
as well as jewels, in the shortest possible space of time, were 
by me entrusted to the care of Julian Alderete, then your 
Majesty's treasurer in these parts, as well as thirty-three 
thousand ounces of gold in ingots ; but the whole of this 
treasure was taken by the French at sea. It was neither my 
fault, but the fault of those who did not fit out in time a suffi- 
cient naval force to send to the Azores for the protection of 
so important a remittance. 

About the time of my starting on my latter expedition to 
the gulf of Las Hibueras, sixty thousand ounces of gold 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 143 

were sent to your Majesty's treasury, the bearers being 
Diego de Ocampo and Francisco Montejo ; and if a greater 
sum was not then sent, it was merely owing to the orders 
issued in your Majesty's Council of the Indies respecting 
the gold to be sent from these parts to Spain, it being my 
private opinion and that of your Majesty's officers also, that 
in remitting so large an amount of gold we somewhat ex- 
ceeded ourselves, and contravened the laws promulgated 
on the subject. Knowing, however, the stress in which your 
Majesty was at the time for want of money, we determined 
on making the said remittance, and I for my part sent to 
your Majesty every thing I had in the world, including a 
field piece entirely made of silver, which cost me in metal, 
working, and other expenses, upwards of thirty-five thou- 
sand ounces of gold. This I sent by a servant of mine, 
Diego de Soto by name, as well as certain Indian ornaments, 
jewels, and gems, which, independently of their value, were 
dear to me as memorials of the conquest ; but as the French 
took possession of those sent in the first instance, and I was 
grieved to hear that your Majesty had not cast your eyes on 
them, I sent every thing I possessed of the kind, not re- 
serving even one single gold ounce, that your Majesty might 
see a specimen, however trifling, of the workmanship and 
civilisation of these Indians. It being, therefore, quite 
proved that my intentions have always been to serve your 
Majesty with pure zeal and unbounded submission, and to pre- 
sent with due humility everything of mine, I cannot see how 
I can be accused of having defrauded your Majesty of your 
rights and monies. I have likewise been told that during my 
absence the officers entrusted with the government of this 
country have occasionally sent sums of money to Spain, so 
that, in truth, whenever there has been an opportunity, re- 
mittances from these distant regions have never failed. 

I have, in a similar manner, been informed, most powerful 
lord, that some of my enemies have written to your Majesty 



144 THE FIFTH LETTER 

about the profits I derive from the provinces allotted to me, 
pretending that I have an income of two hundred mil- 
lions. To show the absurdity of such computation, and in 
order to prove to your Majesty my readiness for the royal 
service, and the truth of my assertions — a thing of all others 
which has been the constant aim of my life — I consent to 
make over to your Majesty the enormous rents which, accord- 
ing to report, I am said to possess. There can be no better 
opportunity for me to convince your Majesty of the truth 
and purity of my intentions, and therefore, from this moment, 
I do transfer to the royal treasury the whole of the above 
specified income. I hope to gain by so doing, especially 
as it may be the means of expelling any suspicion lurk- 
ing in the royal mind, of which the people of this country 
seem to be publicly aware. I, therefore, humbly beseech 
your Majesty to accept the offer of everything I possess on 
this continent, and make me instead a donation of twenty 
millions in Spain. In this manner your Majesty will keep 
the remaining one hundred and eighty millions, and I shall 
live contented at the Imperial court, where, I presume, no 
one will surpass me in fidelity and devotion, or dare to 
shadow my services to the crown. Even as regards the affairs 
of this country, I fancy that I can be, whilst, at court, of 
much use to your Majesty, because as an eye-witness, and one 
who knows the country well, I shall advise that which is 
most convenient for the royal interests, and prevent the 
councillors being deceived by false reports or representations 
from this country. And I can assure your Majesty that it will 
be no inconsiderable service that I shall render by coming into 
the royal presence, and advising of what is to be provided 
for the preservation and keeping of this conquered land, and 
for the conversion of the natives to our Catholic faith, and 
for the increase of your Majesty's revenue in these parts; 
for I have no doubt that by so doing it will go on increasing 
and not diminishing, as it has been the case in the islands 



OF HERNAN CORTES 145 

and in Tierra Firme, for lack of good administration, and 
the Catholic kings, father and grandfather of your Majesty, 
not being properly counseled, but following the advice of 
persons who for their own particular interest misrepresented 
the state of things, as have done all those who have sent re- 
ports from these countries. What is the use, I ask, to con- 
quer those extensive territories, and keep them until now, 
at such an expense and notwithstanding so many obstacles 
and difficulties, if what good was found in them is not pro- 
perly fostered and increased ? 

Two things make me wish in particular that your Majesty 
should be good enough to call me to the royal presence. 
One, and the principal of the two, is in order to con- 
vince your Majesty and the world at large of my loyalty 
and fidelity to the imperial service, it being the thing which 
I most prize of all the advantages that might accrue to me 
in this world ; for if I have exposed my person to so many 
fatigues and dangers, and have undergone such hardships, 
it was merely to gain the name of servant of your Majesty 
and of the imperial crown, and not for sheer covetous- 
ness and desire of treasure.. Indeed, had I been inspired 
by such a sentiment, I should not have lavished and thrown 
away those I possessed — no inconsiderable allowance, indeed, 
for a poor gentleman like me — to forward that which I hold as 
my principal aim and object. My sins, however, have no 
doubt been the cause of my not obtaining that favour which 
I so much covet, nor do I believe that, placed as I am now 
in your Majesty's estimation, I really could vindicate my 
conduct and escape the shafts of my calumniators, unless the 
immense favour which I am now asking, should be granted 
to me. 

From fear, however, that your Majesty may imagine that 
I ask too much, in order that my proposition be rejected — 
though the sum is hardly sufficient for my decent main- 
tenance at court — I will be contented with ten millions of 



146 THE FIFTH LETTER 

yearly revenue. This would enable me to appear without 
shame in your Majesty's presence, after having held in these 
parts the reins of government in the royal name, having 
so effectually and considerably increased the patrimonial 
estates and dominions of your Majesty,. placing under the 
imperial sway so many provinces covered with important 
towns and noble cities ; rooting up and destroying so many 
idolatries, which were a daily offence to our God and Creator; 
bringing most of the inhabitants to the knowledge of our 
true catholic faith, and so implanting the same in this land, 
that, if there be no impediment on the part of those who think 
ill of these matters, and direct their attention and their zeal 
to other ends, it may be reasonably expected that within 
a very short time a new church shall be raised in these 
parts, where God, our Lord, will be better served and more 
honoured than in any other church of this world. 

I again declare that, if your Majesty be pleased to order 
that ten millions should be consigned to me annually in those 
realms, and that, this being granted, I may come to your 
Majesty's presence and serve at court, I will consider it as 
a great favour, even leaving behind everything I here pos- 
sess ; for in so doing, my most sanguine hopes shall be 
realised, and the wish of all my life, which is to serve at 
the imperial court and under the eyes of your Majesty, 
where my loyalty and fidelity may become manifest. 

The other reason which I have for wishing to come to 
your Majesty's presence, is this, that I may then be able to 
give such information respecting the state of this country, 
and even of the adjacent islands, as will tend to the better 
service of God, our Lord, and of your catholic Majesty ; 
because I shall then be believed on such matters; whereas 
treating them from here, my enemies are sure to say that I 
write under the influence of passion, and am moved only by my 
own personal interest, and not out of zeal for your Majesty's 
service, and as your faithful vassal. Such is my desire of 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 147 

kissing your Majesty's royal feet, and to serve at the imperial 
court, that I could not well describe it if I attempted, and 
therefore should your Majesty not be pleased to grant this, 
my humble request, or deem it inopportune to allot me the 
said yearly income for my maintenance at court, I beg and 
entreat that your Majesty will allow me to retain what I al- 
ready possess in this country; or what my agents at court will 
ask for in my name, making it a perpetual pension for me 
and my heirs, so that I may not arrive in your Majesty's 
kingdom begging the people's alms. I shall consider it a great 
boon if your Majesty will send me permission to repair 
to those countries, and accomplish my said wish, for I trust 
in your Majesty's catholic conscience, that my services being 
made patent, as well as my pure intentions, your Majesty 
will not consent that I live in poverty. 

I must add that the arrival of this judge of enquiry 
seemed to me a very good opportunity, and ample cause at 
the same time for the accomplishment of my said wish ; 
and that I even began to make preparations for my journey, 
and would have departed had it not been for two reasons : 
one was my being at the time without money to spend on 
the way, my house in this city having been pillaged and 
robbed of all its contents ; the other was my being afraid 
that during my absence from this country the natives might 
revolt, and the Spaniards get into quarrels, of both of which 
the experience of the past has made me apprehensive and 
cautious. 

Whilst I was, most Catholic sir, drawing up this despatch 
for your Sacred Majesty, a messenger arrived from the South 
Sea, with letters informing me that on that coast, and not far 
from a place called Tecoantepec, a ship had anchored which, 
according to report, and the contents of another letter from 
her master, which I here enclose, belongs to the armada 
sent under Captain Loaysa to the Malucco Islands. As the 
said letter — of which I send the original — contains the parti- 



148 THE FIFTH LETTER 

culars and incidents of her voyage, I shall not stop to relate 
them, but will only mention what I did on the occasion for the 
better service of your Majesty. I immediately sent a com- 
petent person to that place on the coast where the ship was, 
with instructions, in case her master wished to go back to 
Spain, to have him provided with everything he might want, 
and learn from him the particulars of his voyage, the route 
he had followed, and the observations he had made, so as to 
send your Majesty a full report of the whole by the shortest 
possible way. Calculating, moreover, that the ship might 
want repairs, I sent thither a pilot to navigate her to the 
port of Qacatula, where I have now three vessels of mine 
ready to start on an exploring expedition to that sea and 
coast, and I gave orders that she should be repaired and re- 
fitted in the manner most suitable for your Majesty's service, 
and the object of her voyage. As soon as the report arrives, 
I shall not fail to forward it, in order that your Majesty may 
be rightly informed, and tell us the royal pleasure respect- 
ing the said ship and her future destination. 

My vessels in the South Sea, as I have already told 
your Majesty, are in a fit state to undertake their voyage 
of exploration, because on my first arrival in this capital, 
after my expedition to the gulph of Las Hibueras, I began 
to make in all haste the necessary preparations. They would 
already have left the port had it not been that I expected 
from Spain certain arms, artillery, and ammunition which 
I had ordered for them, and have since arrived. I hope to 
God that, for your Majesty's good fortune and better service, 
the said voyage shall be made and accomplished ; for, even 
if no strait is found, I feel confident that a way will be dis- 
covered in those parts, whereby your Majesty may be yearly 
informed of what is done at the Especeria. And if your 
Majesty should be pleased to grant me those mercies which 
I asked for in certain capitulation respecting that discovery, 
I offer myself to discover and conquer all the Especeria and 



OF H ERN A N CORT.tS. 1 49 

other islands, if there be any, between the Malucco, Malacca, 
and China, and so arrange matters that the spices and drugs, 
instead of being obtained through barter and exchange — as 
the King of Portugal has them now— may become your 
Majesty's exclusive property, and the inhabitants of those 
distant islands made to acknowledge the imperial sway. For 
I engage myself, in case the above grants be made to me, to 
go thither personally or send at my own expense such an 
armada as will subdue those countries and islands, and to 
people them with Spaniards, build fortresses, and so fur- 
nish them with artillery and war-stores, that they may be 
easily defended from the native princes, or any other that 
should attempt to invade them. I have no doubt that if 
your Majesty be pleased that I take charge of this affair, 
every thing will turn out as I say for your Majesty's better 
service; and as a proof of my sincerity, I consent, if such be 
not the case, to be punished. for my rashness, and as one who 
tells his king an untruth. 

I have, in like manner, after my arrival in this capital, 
occupied myself in sending by sea and land a number of 
Spaniards to settle on the banks of the Tabasco river, also 
called Grijalba, and conquer many provinces in that neigh- 
bourhood, whereby God, our Lord, and your Majesty will be 
served, and the ships navigating those seas much benefited. 
For the port is a good one, and if it is populated by Spaniards, 
and the natives in the vicinity are pacified, the vessels going 
to and fro will be secure, whereas nowadays all those that 
are cast on shore have their crews murdered by the savage 
Indians who live on the coast. 

I am now sending also to the land of the Zapotecas three 
companies of men to invade it by three different places, so 
as to conquer and reduce it in the shortest possible period 
of time. The conquest, if achieved, will be very beneficial,' 
not only on account of the evils which those people inflict 
daily upon the peaceable Indians in their vicinity; but also 



150 THE FIFTH LETTER 

because they happen to possess and occupy the richest 
mining districts in the whole of New Spain, whence, once 
conquered, your Majesty is to derive considerable profit. 

In a like manner I have decided to send an expedition to 
settle on the banks of the river of Las Palmas, lower down 
than the Panuco, to the north, in the direction of Florida; 
because I am told that the land there is good, and there is 
a seaport. Active preparations are being made for that 
campaign, and already the people who are to go have as- 
sembled in numbers, and I hope that God, our Lord's, and 
your Majesty's service shall there be promoted, the country 
being in every respect very fine. 

Between the northern coast and the province of Mechu- 
acan lies a certain nation of Indians, known by the name of 
Chichimecas. They are a barbarous people, and by no 
means so intelligent as the Indians of these parts, I now 
send in that direction sixty horse and two hundred foot, 
with a considerable number of the natives, our friends, that 
they may unravel the mysteries of that country and its in- 
habitants. Should they find them susceptible of civilisation, 
and capable of living as these Others do, of arriving at a 
knowledge of our faith, and showing readiness for your 
Majesty's service, their instructions are to make every 
possible effort towards bringing them peaceably and by 
mild means under your Majesty's yoke, and to settle 
in that part of their country which appears most fit for it. 
If, on the contrary, the said Indians prove to be rebellious 
and disobedient, my people are directed to wage war upon 
them and make them slaves, in order that there may not re- 
main in this land any thing or living creature that does not 
acknowledge your Majesty as a master, and is of use to the 
royal service ; for, by making frlaves of those barbarous 
nations — who live entirely in the condition of savages — I 
firmly believe that your Majesty will be served, and 
the Spaniards greatly benefited, as they will dig out gold, 



OF HERNAN CORTES. 151 

and perchance some of them, by living among us, will be 
converted and sa^ed. 

In the midst of those Chichimecas I am told that there 
is an extensive province very thickly populated, and covered 
with large towns, the inhabitants of which live in the same 
manner as the Mexican Indians. Some of their towns and 
villages have even been visited by Spaniards. I am confi- 
dent that this will be their first settlement, as the country, 
I am told, abounds with silver mines. 

Two months before my departure for the Gulf of Las 
Hibueras, most powerful sir, I despatched from this city to 
the town of Colima, 1 upon the South Sea, a distance of a 
hundred and four leagues, one of my captains with instruc- 
tions to follow that coast downwards for about a hundred 
and fifty or two hundred leagues, and ascertain the nature 
of it, and see whether there were any ports. My captain 
did as he was ordered ; he went for a hundred and thirty 
leagues inland, and brought me an account and description 
of several ports he had seen on the coast — a service of no 
small importance, considering the scarcity of harbours known 
in those seas. He also brought me notice of many very 
large towns where he had been, and of several numerous 
and warlike Indian tribes, with whom he had encounters, 
or who were peaceably subdued, and he did not go further, 
because he had but a small force with him, and could not pro- 
cure forage for his horses. Among the news reported by 
that captain was that of a very considerable river, which the 
natives told him was ten days' march from the furthest point 
he reached, and about which and the people inhabiting its 
banks, they told him wonderful things. I am now about 
sending him again to those parts, with a larger force and 
better arms and ammunition, that he may reconnoitre that 
river, which, owing to the volume of its waters, its breadth 
and size, might well turn out to be a strait communicating 
1 One of the copies has Coliman. 



152 THE ^IFTH LETTER OF HEKNAN CORTES. 

with the two seas. As soon as he returns, I shall not fail to 
apprise your Majesty of the. information he brings: 

Every one of the captains above alluded to, is on the 
point of starting on the expedition for which he is intended. 
May God be pleased to guide them in a manner that may be 
serviceable to Him and to your Majesty. For my own part, 
I can only add, that I shall never cease to devote myself to 
the imperial service, even if certain to incur your Majesty's 
further displeasure ; for the time will come when my 
faithful services shall be owned and recognised, and if that 
should not be, I am well contented with doing my duty, 
and knowing that all the world is aware of the fidelity with 
which I have served. This conviction is enough for me, 
and I wish no other inheritance for my children. 

Most invincible sovereign, may God our Lord preserve for 
many years the life, and increase the power, of your sacred 
Majesty. From this city of Tenuxtitlan, on the 3rd day of 
September of 1526. 

Hernando Cortes. 



INDEX 



Acabuilguin, lord of Acuculin, 63, 64 
Acalan, see Aculan. 
Acuculin, province of, 63, 64, 65, 66. 69 
Aculan, province of, 21, 28 ; also 

written Acalan, 29, 33, 49, 64,65,68 
Acumba, a village up the river Cago- 

atan, 12 ; written also Acumbra 

and Atumba, 13 
Acumbra, see Acumba. 
Atumba, see Acumba. 
Agualulco, a village, 7 
Aguilar (Marcos de), a Spanish law- 
yer, succeeds Luis Ponce in his 

office, 138 
Albornoz (Eodrigo de), accounting- 
master at Mexico, 2, 6 
Alderete (Julian de), royal treasurer 

at Mexico, 142 
Altamirano (Fr. Diego), a friar of St. 

Francis and cousin of Cortes, 128 
Alvarado (Pedro de), one of Cortes' 

lieutenants, 4, 92, 119, 128, 129 
Amohan, also, written Almohan and 

Amochan, chief of Checan, 58, 60 
Anaxuxuan, the last village in the 

province of Cupilco, 9 
Apospolon, lord of Aculan, 34, 37, 

64,65 
Arias Davila (Pedro), settles in 

Tierra Firme and Nicaragua, 4, 

117, 125, 127 
Armildez Chirinos, see Chirino. 
Ascension (Nuestra Sohora de la), 

name given by Moreno to the 

town of Trujillo, 3, 108 
Ascension Bay, on the coast of Hon- 
duras, 3 
Asuncapin, written also Suncapin. 
Auecapin and Hucscapin, a farm in 

the district of Checan, 60 
Avalos (Juan de), a cousin of Cortes, 

disabled by a fall from his horse, 

61, 69; drowned, 115 
Axucutaco, see Xucutaco. 

Caballos, Puerto, also known as 

Port San Andres, 99 
Caltencingo, also written Caltaneingo 



and Taltenango, a village on the 
Oagoatespan river, 28 
Canec, a chief of the Itzaes, 50; also 

written Kartec and Canek, ib. 
Casas (Francisco de las), a cousin 
of Cortes and one of his lieu- 
tenants, 4; sent to the coast of 
Honduras, 70, 97; his differences 
with Christoval de Olid, 100, 101, 
102 ; has him arrested and put to 
death, 103 ; returns to Mexico, 
104 ; receives instructions from 
Cortes, 119, 120 
Cazabe, a sort of bread used in the 

Western Islands, 75, 76 
Cecoatl, also written Cecoael and 
Lecoalt, an Indian chief among 
the Papayecas, 112 
Chaantel or Chuantel, a village, 82 
Chacujal, on the bay of Honduras, 

82, 88, 92 
Chalchicuela, Indian name for Vera- 
cruz, 131, 132 
Champagua, province of, 111, 112, 

121, 122 
Checan, also written Checan, an In- 
dian village in the province of 
Maeatlan, 58, 59, 60 
Chianteco, a village in the province 

of Taniha, 67 . 
Chicbiraeca, a nation of warlike In- 
dians, 150, 151 
Chilapan, a town, and capital of the 
province so named, 12, 13; de- 
scribed, 14 
Chirino, (Pero Armildez), one of 

the royal officers at Mexico, 2, 6 
Chiwhuytl, a chief of the Cham- 
pagua, 122 
Cholome, written also Choleme and 
Tholoma, a village on the bay of 
Honduras, 96 
Chuantel or Chuhantel, the same as 

Chaantel, 82 
Cicimbra, a village in the province 

of Cagoatan, 13 
Coabata or Coabita, a village of the 
Papayecas, 112 



154 



IN 1)1 X, 



Coalzasestal, the same as Coaza- 

coalco, 28 
Coatlan, see Uttatlan. 
Coazacoalco, a province, 3, 10, 28, 

129 
Colima, called also Coliman, a town 

on the shores of the South Sea, 151 
Contreras (Alonso de), an agent of 

Cortes at Cuba, 99 
Coplisco, Cuplisco, and Cupilco, now 

called Tupilcos, a province, 7 
Corrientes, Cape of, also called San 

Anton, in the island of Cuba, 115 
Cozurael, an island, 115 
Culua, a province of New Spain, 113 
Cunuapa,, a town and district ad- 
joining Tabasco, called Icunuapd 

by Btrnal Diaz, 9, 10 
Caeatula, 148 
Cagoatan, province of, 8, 10, 17; also 

written Zagoatan, 44 
Cupilco, province of, 7 



Encomienda, meaning of the word, 8 

Especieria, Islas de la, name given 
by Spaniards to the Molucco and 
other islands yielding spice, 148, 
149 

Espiritu Santo, a town in the pro- 
vince of Coazacoalco, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 
34 

Estrada (Alonso de), a royal officer 
at Mexico, 2; left by Cortes in 
command of that city, ib. ; quarrels 
with Rodrigo de Albornoz, 3 



Gavabito (Andres), a captain under 

Pedro Arias Davila, 127 
Golfo Dulce, 93 
Gonzalez Davila (Gil), sent by Cortes 

on an expedition to Honduras, 70, 

71, 75, 76, 97, 100, 101, 102, 104 
Grijalba, river of, called also Tabasco 

river, 1 19 
Guanacaxin, lord of Tescuco, enters 

into a conspiracy against Cortes' 

life, 40 
Guateumocin, lord of Tenuxtitlan, 

or Mexico, his conspiracy against 

Cortes detected, 40; is tried and 

executed, 41 
Guaniguanico, a port in the island 

of Cuba, 115 
Guayape, a river, 126 
Giienejos (Los), name of certain 

islands opposite to Honduras, 130 
Guezalapa, a river, 9 



Hesucapin, see Asuncapin, 60 
Hernandez (Francisco), lieutenant 

of Pedro Arias Davila, 124, J 25, 

126, 127 
Hernandez Portoca rrero (Alonso), 

sent by Cortes to Charles V, 141 
Honduras, gulf of, 97 
Huazacoalco, the same as Coaza- 
coalco, q. v. 
Hueitapatlau, a province near tbe 

bay of Honduras, called also 

Xucutaco, 118 
Huititla, one of the Guenejo islands, 

130 
Huilacho, Huilancho, or Huilcacho, 

a province, 126 
Hurtado (Diego), a pilot, 3 



Icancanac, written also Cancanar, 
name of a village, 38, 39 

Icunuapa, see Iquinuapa and Cunu- 
apa. 

Itza, province and territory of the, 49 

Iztapan, a village, 15, 17 



Janiha, see Taniha. 
Japuitel, see Tapuytel. 



Kanec, see Canec. 



Lacandones, lake of the, 50 

Las Casas, see Casas. 

Las Hibueras, gulf of, 142, 148, 151 

Las Palmas, river of, 150 

Lecoalt, see Cecoatl. 

Leguela, an Indian village, 76 

Loaysa, Captain, 147 



Macatlan, a province, 44, 45, 49, 50, 

51, 65 
Malacca, 149 . 
Malucco, islands, 147, 149 
Mayapan, capital of the Itzaes, 50 
Mazatl, a Papayeca Indian chief, 
123 ; betrayed and put to death, ib. 
Mechuacan, province of, 150 
Medellin, a town of New Spain, 6, 

132 
Merlo (Rodrigo de), captain of a 

caravel, 130 
Mexicalcingo, a baptised Mexican, 
otherwise named Christoval, dis- 
covers a conspiracy against 
Cortes, 40 



NDEX. 



155 



Mondoreto, a chief of the Cham- 

pagua, 122 
Montamal, also called Montuval, an 

•Indian chief, 112 
Montejo (Francisco de), sent by 

Cortes to the emperor, 141, 143 
Montuval, see Montamal , • . 
Moreno (Francisco), the bachelor, 

sent to Honduras by the judges 

of Hispaniola,- 98, 106,. 107, 108, 

113, 124 
Muteczuma, emperor of Mexico, 113, 

142 



Naco,an Indian town; the Spaniards 
settle in it, 75, 95, 102, 119, 121 

Narvaez (Pamfilo de), 142 

Natividadde Nuestra Sehora,atown 
in the bay of Honduras, 96, 119 

Navidad, see Natividad. 

Nicaragua, expedition to, 117 

Nito, also called San Gil de Golf'o 
Dulce, 43, 68; Spaniards found at, 
75, 97, 115 

Nieto (Diego), visits Cortes, 71 

Nohuken, one of the native names 
for Lake Itza, 50 

Nuestra S* nora de los Remedios y 
San Pablo, name given by Spani- 
ards to the town of Tayasal un 
the lake Itza, 56 



Ocampo (Diego de), sent to Spain 
with treasure, 143 

Ocumba, a village, 13 

Olid (Christoval de), one of Cortes' 
lieutenants, sent to Honduras, 1, 
2, 4, 76, 77; his behaviour towards 
Francisco de las Casas, 97, 99 ; is 
sentenced to death and executed, 
100, 101, 102, 103 

Olancho, a valley, 126 

Otlatan, province of, 128 

Ozutuazintlan, a village, 23, 27 



Panuco, a province, 150 

Papayeca, also called Papayecua and 

Papayegua, a province, 121, 126 
Paz (Rodrigo de), a servant of Cortes, 

6 ; imprisoned, 117 
Pedrarias, see Arias Davila. 
Peralmindez Chirinos, see Chirino. 
Peten, lake of, 50 
Peten Itza, a province, 56 
Petenecte, a village on the river of 

Cagoatespan, 26 ; also written 

Pcnecte. 



Pizacura, a chief of the Papayeca, 
taken prisoner, 123; dies, 124 

Ponce (Luis), a magistrate; is sent 
-to Mexico to inquire into the acts 
of Cortes, 135 ; dies, ib. 

Portocarrero, see Hernandez. 

Poto, a chief of the Champagua, 122 

Puerto-Caballos; a port on the bay 
of Honduras, 76, 93 

Puerto del Alabastro, a mountain- 
pass in the province of Taiza; why 
so called by Cortes, 50 



Quezalapa, a river; one of the tri- 
butaries of the Tabasco, 9 

Quiatcho or Quiatlco, also written 
Quiniacho, name given by the na- 
tives to the province of Macatlan, 
44, 49 

Quimixtitlan, also written Quimist- 
lan and Quimotlan, an Indian 
village, 96 

Quiniacho, see Quiatcho. 



Remedios- Peten, an island on the 

lake Itza, 53 
Rojas (Gabriel de), 126, 127 
Ruano (Juan), 107, 108 



Saavedra (Hernando de), a cousin 
and lieutenant of Cortes ; ap- 
pointed governor of Trujillo, 118, 
131 

San Andres, bay and village of, 97, 
124 

San Francisco, a convent and church 
in Mexico, 134 

Salazar (Gonzalo de), a factor, ac- 
companies Cortes in Lis expedi- 
tion, 2; is sent back to Mexico, 6 

San Anton or Corrientes, a cape in 
the island of Cuba, 115 

Sandoval (Gonzalo de), 124 

(Hernando), a cousin and 



lieutenant of Cortes, 125, 126 
San Esteban del Puerto, on the 

banks of the Panuco river, 34 
San Gil de Buenavista on the Golfo 

Dulce, 76, 93 
San Pedro Zula, on the bay of Hon- 
duras, 76 
Santiago de Guatemala, 119 
Soto, a lieutenant of Francisco Her- 
nandez, 126 

(Diego de), a servant of Cortes, 

143 



156 



INDEX. 



Tabasco, river of, 3, 149 

Tacatel or Tacatelz, a Mexican chief, 
called also Tacatele and Tacitecle,4:0 

Tacuba, a district of New Spain, 40 

Taiza, written also Taica and Tallica, 
province of, 49, 50, 65 

Tahuytel, written also Tatahuytal, 
a village, 60, 63 

Taltenango, see Caltencingo. 

Tamastepeque and Tamacastepe- 
que, a village in the province of 
Chilapan ; the same as Tepetitan 

Taniha, also written Janiha, a pro- 
vince, 68, 69 

Tatahuitalpan, also written Yatal- 
hi'atalpan, a village in the pro- 
vince of Iztapan, 20, 22 

Tautitan, also written Teutitan and 
Testitan, a village in the province 
of C, agoatespan, 28 

Taxuytel, also written Japuitel and 
Japitel, a farmhouse in the dis- 
trict of Checan, 60 

Teculutlan, a village, 92 

Telica, a village in the province of 
Champagua, 112 

Tenciz or Teneis, the farms of, 60; 
arrival of Cortes at, 61, 65 

Tenuxtitlan, ancient name for Mex- 
ico, 1, 2, 113 

Tepetitan or Tepetican, a village ra- 
the province of Chilapan, called 
also Tamacastepeque, 14, 15 
Tetepanquecal, lord of Tacuba, en- 
ters into a conspiracy against 
Cortes, 40; is tried and hung, 41 
Teucas, supposed to be the same as 

Tenciz, # 61 
Teutiercar, also written Teutiercas 

and Tentacras, a village, 36, 37 
Teutitan, see Tautitan. 
Tezcuco, the lord of, enters into a 

conspiracy against Cortes, 40 
Tiac, also written Tiacle and Tiax, 
a village in the province of Macat- 
lan, 48, 49 



Tiasmicabil or Yasuncabil, the last 

village in the province of Macat- 

lan, 49 
Ticatepelt, a village in the province 

of Aculan, 35 
Tlatilulco, a district near Mexico, 40 
Trinidad, a port in the island of 

Cuba, 115, 116 
Troche (Gaspar), a merchant from 

the island of San Juan, 107 
Trujillo, town of, 104, 115, 121 
Tumalon, a village, 7 
Tziminchak, an idol of the Itzaes, 53* 

Uttatlan, also written Coatlan, pro- 
vince of, 129 

Uzumazintlan or Ima^intlan, a vil- 
lage, 27 

Valenzuela, master of a ship; his 

crew's mutiny, 115 
Velazquez (Diego), governor of Cuba, 

99 

Xiculango, a province> 3, 34. 
Xucutaco, a district sixty mile's from v 

Trujillo, written also ■Axueutqcoj ! 

118 

Yaiza, see Taiza. 
Yasa, river, 72 

Yazuncabil, the same as TiasmicahiVy 
49 

Zagoatan, see Cagoatan. 

Zalapa, a river, 9 

Zapoetecas, land of the, 149 

Zuazo (Alonso de), 2, 6; imprisoned, 

116, 117 
Zuezalapa, the river called brothers 

Guezalapa and Quezatapa, 9 
Zula, written also Zola and Zecla, a 

village on the bay of Honduras, 96 
Zupilco, see Cupilco. 



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